This year’s school board elections have drawn a lot of attention and are more hotly contested than at any time in recent memory. As Sunlight has documented, the NJEA is running a well funded, multi-pronged campaign against parents seeking greater control over local education policies. One prong of that campaign, the NJEA-friendly, dark-money Super PAC “Education Truth Project” (which sure looks like an NJEA front) warns that NJEA-friendly candidates are “running against millions being spent” by conservative groups. But ETP doesn’t provide any evidence of this happening in New Jersey. On the other hand, there’s plenty of evidence showing that it is the NJEA that is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) in the school board races and tipping the scales in its favor.
This is consistent with national trends as well. As the Manhattan Institute’s Michael Hartney concludes in a recent report (as quoted by The 74): “research showed (and continues to show) that teachers unions dominate local school board elections.” That is certainly the case in New Jersey.
Here are the various elements of the NJEA’s campaign, the cost of which surely runs into the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.
- 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; and
- Training and support for union-friendly candidates from NJEA-hired Working Families Alliance;
- A newly formed dark money Super PAC aimed at school board races.
Looking at 2022 spending by the NJEA traditional PAC, NJEA PAC, we can see the role the NJEA plays in local school board races (as reported on the ELEC website):
- $3,000 for Ringwood BOE;
- $1,500 for Old Bridge BOE; and
- $16,400 for Wayne BOE.
And we know that the NJEA’s Super PAC, Garden State Forward, has spent at least $205,342 on school board races, although the NJEA’s inadequate disclosure means that we do not know where the NJEA is spending that money.
So that’s a total of $226,242 we know that NJEA is spending on school board races. This must be added to:
- The tens or hundreds of thousands for the multi-pronged, statewide anti-parent campaign (see above);
- Local association endorsements (such as in Hoboken) and the local’s “volunteers” hitting the streets to get out the vote;
- Where the NJEA and county associations augment local efforts by bringing in help from outside the district, such as in the Township of Ocean.
Add this all up and it’s clear that it is the NJEA that is swooping into local school races, dropping thousands of dollars and resources, and tilting the scales in its favor. School board races are generally small-budget, often self-funded campaigns and it’s highly unlikely that parents can match the NJEA’s muscle.
So, make no mistake about it: the evidence shows that, as in the rest of the nation, it is the teachers unions that are dominating New Jersey school board elections.