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The average New Jersey teacher makes about $70,212 per year, plus generous benefits. Not too shabby, until you realize how much money they pay to make millionaires of their union leaders. According to a new report, the executives of the New Jersey Education Association pay themselves more than any other teacher union executive in the nation.
How do we know this?
Michael Lilley of the Sunlight Policy Center of New Jersey did the math in his new report, comparing the 2018-2022 compensation (based on IRS filings) for NJEA leadership with its mothership, the National Education Association. In addition he compared NJEA executive salaries with the three largest state unions in the country: New York (NYSUT), the California Teachers Association (CTA), and Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). NEA and these three state organizations have higher membership and revenue than NJEA so, says Lilley, “there’s nothing in the NJEA’s size that would justify excessive compensation.”
But that doesn’t stop NJEA from, for instance, paying one executive an “astounding $2,052,199 per year,” more than double CTA’s highest-paid executive and “multiples higher than other unions.”
How does NJEA pay its top brass so much and stay solvent? One factor surely must be this: NJEA members pay the highest annual dues in the country.
First, let’s look at the eye-popping salaries of NJEA’s upper caste, with context provided by their out-of-state brethren. Here’s Lilley:
- Top ten highest-paid execs for each union. Looking at the top ten highest-paid execs for each union for each year, the NJEA’s leadership’s average pay was $752,726 a year, 59% higher than NEA, 65% higher than CTA, 128% higher than NYSUT and 160% higher than PSEA. It’s not even close. For the record, $752,726 is well within New Jersey’s “one percenter” class.
- Single highest-paid exec. The NJEA’s single highest-paid exec averaged an astounding $2,052,199 per year! More than double CTA, the next-highest, and multiples higher than the other unions. Wall Street would be envious!
- Top ten highest-paid execs for all unions. The NJEA had eight of the top ten highest-paid execs for all the unions for 2018-20, and four of the five over $1 million. Former executive director Ed Richardson appears on the list three times.
Ed Richardson,” writes Lilley is “the NJEA’s $9.3 million political pro. You read that right: over his thirteen-year career as a NJEA exec, Richardson was paid $9,311,371. This must be some sort of record for a public-sector union exec…NJEA leadership are making themselves New Jersey one-percenters,” he continues, “on the backs of teachers. If New Jersey teachers knew these facts, they would be outraged.”
One example: NEA has just under three million members with 2020 revenues of almost $400 million. NJEA has 200,200 members (in 2019-2020) and has revenues of $150 million,. Yet it pays its head honchos way more than the national union.
Here’s Lilley: “In order to get a sense of overall executive compensation, we looked at the last three IRS Form 990s filed for NJEA, NEA, NYSUT, CTA, and PSEA, and derived the average annual compensation for the ten most highly paid executives. It wasn’t even close.”
You can see for yourself:
According to Lilley, this makes NJEA executives “New Jersey One-Percenters,” with an average compensation of $752,726. (In NJ, a “one-percenter” makes $700K a year.)
It gets even more outlandish. NJEA’s highest-paid exec (who gets $2,052,119 a year) is “more than double the next highest amount (CTA’s $863,194), more than triple the NEA’s $606,163, almost five-times higher than NYSUT’s $418,187, and more than six-times higher than PSEA’s $338,974. For every year, the NJEA paid the single-highest compensation. Once again, the NJEA is an outlier.”
What does that look like? This table shows the top ten annual salaries for executives among all four unions, NJEA, NEA, CTA, and PSEA. Eight of the ten are from NJEA:
Lilley notes that NJEA’s highest salaries didn’t go to the president, vice president, or secretary. Instead they went to headquarters staff. “Incredibly, in 2018, the average compensation for the top nine headquarters staff was over a million dollars!” What do headquarters staff do? They are “mostly political operatives and organizers,” involved in boosting favored legislation and legislators, as well as contributing to the agenda of the national union.
And then there’s Ed Richardson, political organizer and former executive director, who Lilley says “is truly in a class by himself….Over his thirteen-year career as a NJEA exec, Richardson amassed a jaw-dropping $9,311,371 in compensation…That averages out to $716,259 a year, which would put Richardson among the top ten highest levels of compensation for all the unions.”
How does NJEA manage these sky-high salaries?
Teacher contribution in the form of annual dues, which are 30% higher than CTA dues, 74% higher than PSEA dues, and 164% higher than NYSUT dues.
With the highest annual dues in the nation, which are automatically withheld from paychecks, Lilley calls NJEA a “rigged system” where “teachers never see the money” because it goes towards “lavish executive compensation.” He adds, “NJEA leadership are making themselves New Jersey one-percenters on the backs of teachers.”