NJEA gets court win over statehouse posters with school funding issues looming
TRENTON — Now that the government shutdown is over, business is returning to usual across the state, but some details from the three day standstill are still being ironed out.
When members from the NJEA and other unions saw posters hanging in the statehouse and other buildings over the weekend that were authorized by the governor and were blocked from posting their own they took the matter to court. The posters showed Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and blamed him for the shutdown. The unions claimed the refusal by state troopers to allow them to post their own signs was a violation of their first amendment rights.
On Monday, even while the shutdown was in its third day, Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson agreed with the NJEA and barred the government from posting any additional posters. She also set a full hearing on the matter for Friday afternoon.
Steven Baker, a spokesman for the NJEA said the decision by Jacobson was a good sign for their case.
"We were pleased that the judge recognized the constitutional concerns about Chris Christie's actions," he said.
Now that the government has reopened Baker said he was not sure what the future of the case will be as the signs are no longer relevant.
"Certainly we would expect that the signs are coming down now that the state is no longer closed," he said. "However, the removal of the signs doesn't necessarily take away from how inappropriate it was for the administration to use taxpayer dollars in that way and to suppress free speech in that way."
The new budget also brings a new school funding plan which means more money for some districts and also millions of dollars in cuts for others. Baker said the NJEA was "very concerned about that, very opposed to those cuts."
"We opposed having any of those cuts and we hope that moving forward with better leadership in the governor's office next year that we will have the ability to work with an administration that respects public education and recognizes the need of every child to have adequate resources in order to succeed."
Baker said there are discussions about how to "mitigate the damage that's been done" with the new school funding plan for this year, but was not sure what those discussions include at this point.
"Before the end of this school year we are going to have a new governor and we hope that it's a governor who recognizes and respects the needs of children and works with us and works with people who believe in education to get to a much better place in terms of school funding."
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com