More mendacity from Michael “Hundreds of Millions” Gottesman and the NJ Public Education Coalition (NJPEC), this time in a deeply deceptive digital ad. The bullying Gottesman likes to accuse his opponents of lying, but, using his terminology, who is really lying here? Once again, it is Gottesman. Will the facts cause InsiderNJ’s Fred Snowflack revise his article?
The deceptive NJPEC YouTube ad was then taken as the gospel truth by InsiderNJ’s Fred Snowflack and amplified by his recent article on New Jersey’s culture wars. Snowflack states that the “conservatives” — really the various parents groups that have sprouted up — are lying. Knowing the mendacious Gottesman, we decided to dig into the ad, and it turns out that it is Gottesman who is lying, not the parent groups.
The ad, which is aimed at the upcoming school board elections, opens with the line: “Do you like being lied to?” It then goes on to state:
“The extreme right has been telling our communities that a huge number of parents have been opting their children out of … the sex ed curriculum.”
The narrator says the above quote with the slide below as the backdrop. Note the logos of four parents rights groups: New Jersey Project, Team PYC (Protect Your Children), Moms for Liberty and The Center for Garden State Families. The message is unmistakable: these four groups make up the “extreme right” that is saying that “huge numbers” of parents are opting out their children.
But are they? Sunlight did a Google search which included the names of each of these groups and “opt out.” We looked at every entry we found. We found ZERO claims by any of these groups that “huge numbers of parents” were opting out. We found ONE news story where a 2022 Ocean City school board candidate (not any of the groups above) said “some families” had opted out in her district. That’s it.
We then checked the Facebook pages of all four organizations. Again, we found ZERO claims about “huge numbers” of parents opting out their children. Our research turned up NO EVIDENCE to support NJPEC’s claim. Unless and until NJPEC can provide evidence, we will conclude: The facts show that NJPEC’s claim in its ad is false.
NJPEC’s false claim is then used as a fabricated straw man for NJPEC’s open-records data to knock down. As shown below, NJPEC says its made open-record requests to “every public school district in New Jersey.”
The next slide declares that “just 3% of parents” opted their out their children “statewide.”
Sounds like a pretty comprehensive and sound result, doesn’t it? Except that it’s not. At the very end of the ad, a slide flashes up for a few seconds. It’s a small-print disclaimer of sorts.
Since the print is too small to read, we’ll tell you what it says:
“Statistics based off of preliminary data with 25% of students population and districts reporting across the state. Opt-out rates % calculated from PK-12
So, it turns out that the way NJPEC described the data in the ad, which clearly implied that the 3% reflected responses from all the school districts in New Jersey, was misleading in the extreme. Unless the viewer took the time to read the disclaimer closely, she would come away with the false impression that the 3% opt-out rate reflected ALL the school districts in New Jersey. No doubt exactly as intended.
And, to be clear, 25% does not in and of itself represent a valid sample-size. Does it comprise 25% of districts or the student population? Moreover, New Jersey’s 600 school districts vary tremendously and each has the discretion to shape its own curriculum. The percentage of parents opting out very likely varies greatly depending on the districts sampled. We have no idea which districts responded to NJPEC’s open-records requests and thus neither NJPEC nor we can know whether they make up a representative sample. Nor do we know exactly how the percentage was calculated (that is, what the numerator and denominator were). But we do know that NJPEC’s data does not support the sweeping statewide claim made in the ad. That’s deceptive.
Here’s what the facts show: Gottesman and NJPEC made a false claim (lied) about what the four parents groups said, and made an extremely misleading claim about only 3% of parents opting out statewide — misleading to the point of deception (or, if you prefer, lying).
So now we know who’s really lying: Once again, it is mendacious Michael “Hundreds of Millions” Gottesman and NJPEC.
Based on these facts, Will InsiderNJ’s Fred Snowflack revise his “conservatives” are lying and “liberals” are telling the truth narrative? Not a chance.