State Board of Education changing rapidly before Jan 10

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Two new board members approved and more to come

There are just a few more days left to this two-year legislative session that started on January 11, 2022, and will end on Jan 9, 2024 – when Governor Murphy gives his State of the State address, and new members elected to the legislature take their oath of office.  

The past few weeks following the state elections have been a whirlwind to say the least! 

Please make sure to read our previous email to get caught up on all the action 

Incumbents, some who are not returning, continue to vote on legislation and Governor appointees until their term expires next Tuesday. In the State Senate, this includes approving the appointments of the Governor to the State Board of Education.  

Our team has been in Trenton over the past few weeks speaking to state senators every time the Senate Judiciary Committee has met to interview these candidates for the State BOE. Today, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Stack (D – Union City), announced more nominees will be interviewed on Monday, Jan 8.  

Read below for greater details on the candidates that have been approved  

Mary Bennett

Mary Bennett was released from the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 18, 2023, “without their recommendation”.  

Please view our Action Alert that was sent this past Tuesday, Jan 2 for more background information.  

Our team, and a number of pro-family organizations that work with us defending parental rights, were checking the state legislative website literally night and day to find out when Mary Bennett would be up for a vote from the full Senate. The Office of Legislative Services is required to give public notice of all upcoming votes to be posted online at least 24 hours in advance.  

On December 20, three different organizations checked the website, including Shawn Hyland, our Director of Advocacy. Mary Bennett’s “Advice and Consent” vote was not listed for the Senate voting session on Dec 21. The coalition was relieved that this controversial vote would wait until the new year.  

Guess what? The vote happened on December 21 – without any public notice! Every Democrat in attendance voted FOR Mary Bennett, and every Republican voted AGAINST her nomination. Nominee approved! Mary Beth Gazi, a solid parent friendly voice on the State Board of Education was targeted and removed by Governor Murphy.  

Note – the Office of Legislative Services has informed our allies they are not required to post a vote in advance for Govenor appointees, only legislation that will become law. Elected officials and staffers disagree.

Jeanette Pena

Jeanette Pena was nominated to replace Ernest Lepore on the State Board of Education, who routinely voted against the will of parents by supporting radical social policies in classrooms. Ernest recently resigned from the Board leaving an open seat that had to be filled. Jeanette was interviewed today, January 4th by the Senate Judiciary Committee – and received their recommendation for a full Senate vote next week. Her testimony was compelling, and she is highly qualified for the position. However, she was intentionally unclear about her personal views regarding gender identity in young grades. We are hopeful that her stated goal of getting the State BOE to once again focus on academics and not socially divisive policies is a positive sign.

Allan F. Wright

Executive Director

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