Today New Jersey’s Sunlight Policy Center launched a six-figure billboard campaign that takes aim at the New Jersey Education Association’s aggressive approach to keeping schools closed for the state’s 1.4 million schoolchildren.
A source told NJ Ed Report that the campaign is driven, in part, by NJEA leaders’ influence over Gov. Phil Murphy. While Murphy has said he wants all schools open in September, some school boards are facing combative local unions who continue to oppose in-school instruction. Currently 246 districts, less than half in the state, are fully open while restaurants, gyms, personal services, movie theaters, stores, museums, and amusement parks will open without indoor capacity caps on May 19th.
- In Montclair, the New York Times reported, “after several false starts over the last two months, public schools in Montclair, N.J., an affluent New York City suburb, were finally set to reopen Monday for the first time since the pandemic shut them down in March…Then the township’s powerful teachers’ union stepped in, and the plan was abruptly scrapped.” (For NJ Ed Report coverage of Montclair, see here.)
- In Newark, teacher union president John Abeigon told NJ Spotlight he wouldn’t send his kids to school and a Newark teacher representative said opening schools is “putting kids at risk, putting teachers at risk.”
- In Jersey City, Superintendent Franklin Walker tried to reopen schools but on the first day of preparations, at the direction of teachers union leaders, 500 teachers called in sick.
- In Trenton, the school board filed a lawsuit against the teachers union for an “illegal strike” after staff refused to appear for hybrid instruction. A judge just ruled for the district; a union representative compared the school board to “the regime of Saddam Hussein.”
- And NJEA out-going president Marie Blistan (her replacement is Sean Spiller, coincidentally mayor of Montclair), has said NJ should be prepared for “interruptions in learning for maybe another year.”
Billboards will continue going up across the state throughout the month. “It’s clear that parents want schools open,” said a source. “New Jersey schools aren’t closed because of science, they’re closed because of NJEA’s leverage over Murphy.
Sunlight Policy Center is a non-profit think tank that defines its mission as “informing New Jersey citizens of the facts behind our state’s dysfunctional status quo and advocating for policy solutions that put New Jersey back on the path to future prosperity.”
Here are replicas of the billboards: