The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) revealed last week what it really thinks about parents. In a 15-second YouTube advertisement, the NJEA smeared thousands of parents across the country who want to protect their kids from poisonous ideologies, calling them “extremists” who should “take [their complaints] somewhere else.”
These parents are now part of the ever-growing number of alleged “extremist groups” who question the left’s authority.
Coming, as it does, at the beginning of a new school year, this ad reveals that one of the true goals of the establishment is to remove parents from the educational process altogether. In essence, New Jersey’s educrats have declared war on New Jersey families.
Defining the Terms of Engagement
The ad opens by claiming that everyone in New Jersey agrees that “kids deserve a world-class education.” This may be true, but more and more, parents and educrats disagree as to what constitutes a “world-class education.”
A recent poll commissioned by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) displays the enormity of this disconnect. Voters in five battleground states were asked about highly contentious topics in contemporary education, including critical race theory and sex and gender identity, that have plagued the educational establishment for over a year now. On these points, the NJEA proves itself to be in lockstep with the political left despite the public’s well-documented opposition to this agenda.
When asked about “the way students are taught about racial issues and the role of race in America,” 60 percent of poll respondents claimed that they were either somewhat or very dissatisfied compared to only 27 percent who reported being satisfied.
Among the dissatisfied, fewer than one-fifth claimed their views were based on there being “not enough teaching” about race. Yet in 2021, New Jersey went all in on race with a law requiring K-12 schools to teach courses on “unconscious bias and diversity,” ideological concepts that progressive activists admit have their roots in critical race theory.
New Jersey’s educational apparatus is similarly tone-deaf regarding gender and sexuality. The AFT poll found that 58 percent of respondents were somewhat or very dissatisfied, and only 11 percent of those polled believed that more instruction was necessary in this area. This year, New Jersey schools will be implementing controversial new standards for sexual education, including units on gender identity for first and second graders.
Half of the poll’s respondents were dissatisfied with “the amount of say that parents have in what their children are taught.” The NJEA clearly is ignoring this fact.
Banning Parents from the Battlefield
The images in the ad reinforce the union’s hubris. Although teachers’ unions talk a good game about parental involvement, the sad truth is that they see parents as a hindrance to their ideological goals. This is why many teachers and administrators are reticent about allowing parents to visit classrooms and why they attack school camera laws like the one that the Iowa legislature failed to pass several months back.
The establishment’s endgame can be observed in the NJEA’s vigorous support for A-1055, a bill that would create a pilot program for “community schooling” in the state. The National Education Association describes this philosophy as “bringing together academics, health and social services, youth and community development; and community engagement.” What this innocuous-sounding word salad really means is that government-run schools will take over many of the vital “wrap-around services” that are traditionally provided by individual families and other local organizations, such as churches and private businesses.
The result, in the words of the NJ Community Schools Coalition, is that government schools will “become centers of the community and [will be] open to everyone — all day, every day, evenings and weekends.”
Extremism in the Defense of One’s Kids Is No Vice
Luckily, the “extremist” parents in the Garden State have at least a few options to avoid the contempt of the educational establishment. New Jersey is one of only 11 states with “low regulation” of homeschooling with no required notice to school districts. There is also a decent charter school presence in the state.
Overall, however, New Jersey is not friendly to school choice. The most recent data from the Center for Education Reform rates the state relatively low on its Parent Power Index, noting that under Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, charter schools have suffered “a continued and relentless assault” and that the state still offers no “choice programs,” such as vouchers or tax credits.
In such an environment, it’s no wonder that the NJEA feels so comfortable viciously smearing those who dare to question it.
Yet New Jersey government schools are suffering the same falling enrollment that has become common throughout the nation. In the 2020-2021 school year, more than 40,000 fewer students attended government schools in the state when compared to 2019-2020. When these numbers came out in April, the New Jersey Department of Education remained curiously quiet when asked about the causes of the drop.
Perhaps the “extremism” the NJEA fears is becoming more mainstream. If so, dissenting parents in the Garden State should take comfort in the fact that when radical leftists slap a label like this on you, you’re probably doing something right.