NJSpotlight News is hosting a virtual roundtable on “worrisome signs and possible solutions” about the shortage of teachers in New Jersey. All well and good except that the main sponsor of the event is long-time and substantial NJSpotlight donor (see here and here), the NJEA, and Sunlight wonders whether the roundtable will be able to explore all angles on this complicated issue, including those that implicate teachers unions as part of the problem.
Sunlight wrote a report and a Star-Ledger op-ed detailing the many aspects of unionized teaching that made the profession unappealing to young college graduates — not least of which were the NJEA’s highest-in-the-nation dues, the extensive political activity it funds, and the rigid, seniority-based system that the NJEA forces on school districts.
Even more relevant, Sunlight discovered a 2014 National Education Association (the NJEA’s parent) report by a panel of young NEA teachers that described their dissatisfaction with the union-dominated system, and particularly about the focus on politics over teaching and seniority over merit. The report is in these teachers’ own words and they express their dissatisfaction loudly and clearly. Neither the NEA nor the NJEA listened to what they said.
Sunlight has documented past examples of the disparate treatment of pro-NJEA and anti-NJEA viewpoints by NJSpotlight (see here and here), and we wonder whether the NJSpotlight moderators will lead an open and all-encompassing debate. If past is prologue, we are not optimistic.
We are also struck by the poor optics of the event. NJSpotlight once again seems oblivious to the obvious conflict of interest that is in play. Given the NJEA’s financial support, we are left to wonder whether they even care.