Once again, NorthJersey.com’s Mary Ann Koruth just can’t tell it straight when it comes to the culture wars being fought in New Jersey school districts. She adopts the pro-NJEA, “progressive” side’s framing of the issue and is remarkably incurious about the NJEA’s role.
In her most recent piece on the groups involved in this year’s school board races, she breaks down the two camps as “advocates of greater parental control” on one side, and “advocates of public education” on the other. But that’s not accurate.
First, it implies that one side is pro-public education and the other isn’t. But these parents aren’t anti-public education. They are running for school board because they want to improve (in their eyes) public education, not destroy it. Koruth’s framing is exactly how the NJEA frames the fight, describing the candidates it supports as “pro-public education.” Let’s be honest here, Ms. Koruth: The battle is between parents who want more control over schools against the NJEA status quo, which wants to keep NJEA control over schools.
Koruth’s framing flows down to her description of the “progressive” New Jersey Public Education Coalition (NJPEC), which reads like it was written by NJPEC. NJPEC is a “knowledge organization” created to “inform voters looking for reliable information.” How benign. No mention of NJPEC’s leader Michael “Hundreds of Millions” Gottesman’s and NJPEC’s disruptive tactics and attempts to bully opponents. No mention of Gottesman’s rather less-than-reliable habitual mendacity.
When describing NJPEC’s finances, Koruth simply takes the mendacious Gottesman’s word. She dutifully reports that NJPEC’s budget has been $5,000 since May, 2022, plus an “in-kind” donation to host its website. Hmmm. Sure sounds like the all-volunteer, grassroots organization that NJPEC claims to be. How benign.
Except that it’s a pretty slick website, which has been upgraded and hosted for a year and a half. Unmentioned is that the donation also included paying for NJPEC’s press releases. What’s the total value of the donation? Koruth doesn’t ask. And there’s no mention that the donation came from the dark-money Super PAC, Education Truth Project, which looks very much like a NJEA/NEA front. Of course, if ETP is NJEA/NEA-funded, then so is NJPEC, but Koruth doesn’t bother to pursue that angle despite their clearly aligned rhetoric and policy stances.
Koruth’s incuriosity about the NJEA’s role flows into her description of the NJEA, itself. She mentions that the NJEA has a traditional PAC, NJEA PAC, which does not get directly involved in school board races but will support local associations that make endorsements. But Koruth fails to note that can still amount to significant amounts of money in support of pro-NJEA candidates, especially in low-budget elections. Here are last year’s numbers: NJEA PAC contributed $24,600 in Wayne, $6,000 in Sparta, $3,000 in Ringwood, and $1,500 in Old Bridge.
But what about the NJEA’s Super PAC, Garden State Forward? Garden State Forward’s political spending dwarfs NJEA PAC’s and Garden State Forward does get directly involved in school board races. Last year, Garden State Forward spent $48,000 in Hillsborough and $25,000 in Sparta. Those are huge sums of money for school board races, yet, oddly, Koruth doesn’t mention Garden State Forward. Why not?
There’s a pattern here. When it comes to the culture wars, Koruth can’t tell it straight. She treats the “progressive,” pro-NJEA side differently from the parents’ side. That’s called bias.