We now have on-the-ground confirmation about the tactics and reach of the NJEA’s well-funded, statewide campaign against parents who dare to speak up at school board meetings or run for school board this fall. As part of the campaign, union leadership seeks to thrust teachers into local political battles, but it looks like some teachers are resisting. These real-world interactions show the how the NJEA is seeking to dominate local school boards by whatever means necessary, regardless of how local teachers feel about it.
Previously, Sunlight detailed all the various elements of the NJEA’s campaign:
- TV ads labeling parents as “extremists;”
- A dedicated NJEA website with a “reporting tool” so teachers can inform on parents and the NJEA can conduct opposition research on them;
- NJEA staff members being sent to locals across the state to prod teachers to be active in school board elections;
- NJEA training and support for union-friendly candidates; and
- A newly formed dark money Super PAC aimed at school board races.
So the NJEA is all-in when it comes to fighting parents who dare to challenge the NJEA-dominated status quo. But it turns out that teachers may not be as enthusiastic as their union leadership.
Thanks to a helpful Facebook friend, we were alerted to on-the-ground examples of what the NJEA is doing in school districts and the negative reaction from teachers.
I. Lacey Township: The Union Asks Teachers to Inform on Parents. At a “President’s meeting” (presumably the president of the Lacey Township Education Association – LTEA), parents voicing concerns over what is being taught in Lacey schools are described as “spreading and supporting misinformation,” a common NJEA refrain. An attendee of the president’s meeting — presumably a teacher — refers to a parent who spoke out named Cheryl and asks another presumed teacher to “look into her background.” Pushing teachers to inform on parents so the NJEA can conduct opposition research on them is a major component of the NJEA campaign. The NJEA has a dedicated website “Center for Honesty in Education” with a “reporting tool” to facilitate teachers informing on parents so the NJEA can monitor and investigate them, which is essentially opposition research. This is precisely what the LTEA appears to be doing.
But the Lacey Teacher Refuses To Be an Informant. Notably, the teacher asked to “look into” Cheryl’s background demurs because “I trust her and what she stands for, unlike the majority of our current board.” So the union characterizes the activist parent in a negative light but the teacher knows that is false from personal experience and refuses to inform on her.
Sunlight wonders how many teachers find themselves in such a situation. Union leadership wants teachers to treat activist parents as the opposition but oftentimes teachers have positive relationships with parents – even activist ones – and do not want to be dragooned into fighting them. That appears to be what happened in Lacey Township.
II. Township of Ocean: Trying to Mobilize Teachers to Fight Parent Candidates. Part of the NJEA’s campaign involves sending out NJEA staff to local associations across the state to prod them to get teachers involved in their local school board races. As a result, the Township of Ocean Education Association (TOEA) was moved to endorse school board candidates — possibly for the first time ever. In an emergency meeting on September 28, the TOEA urges its members to take “an active, physical role in this election” because “the future of the union is at stake.” Just as NJEA staff has said in its meetings with other locals, TOEA must elect union-friendly candidates who will be pro-union when they negotiate the next contract.
But it turns out that TOEA teachers aren’t enthused about engaging in school board politics. TOEA leadership remarks that “generally speaking, our participation numbers are poor and more people need to get involved.” We learn that only 22 of the 200 TOEA members have even bothered to respond to a survey seeking more active participation in union training and activities.
But not to worry, the NJEA is coming to the rescue. Coordinating with the Monmouth County Education Association (MCEA) and the NJEA, the TOEA will “provide money, signage and other resources” in support of TOEA-endorsed candidates. If TOEA teachers aren’t enthused, then the NJEA and MCEA will reach outside the Township of Ocean to mobilize the 600 NJEA members in the area who live outside the district. By leveraging the NJEA’s resources, “we can win election for anyone we want.” In Ocean, as in many other school districts across the state, the NJEA and county associations can and will bring in outside firepower to help sway the outcome of local school board races.
So make no mistake about it: the NJEA, MCEA and TOEA’s efforts are aimed at capturing the school board with union-friendly candidates that will keep the union-dominated status quo by whatever means necessary. There’s no room for outspoken parents in such a regime. That’s why the NJEA is all-in and willing to thrust teachers into the “uncomfortable” position of opposing local parents. And if local teachers are not willing to do so, then the NJEA will bring in members and resources from outside the district to get control of school boards.
You can be sure that these efforts are on-going all around the state. It’s the NJEA against parents with teachers reluctantly caught in the middle.