Home>Education>Pennacchio issues broadside against ‘woke agenda’ in N.J. schools

State Sen. Joe Pennacchio. (Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

Pennacchio issues broadside against ‘woke agenda’ in N.J. schools

Senator highlights four bills eliminating diversity instruction requirements and increasing parental access

By Joey Fox, April 06 2022 3:06 pm

State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) released a statement today excoriating what he characterized as the “woke agenda” in New Jersey’s public schools, and cited four bills he and other Republican senators have introduced that would eliminate some state educational requirements and increase parental oversight of school curricula.

“The woke agenda wielded by Murphy Democrats is a full-scale attack on families,” Pennacchio said. “State government has a role in all of our lives, but it should be to support our security and freedoms, not to dictate how mothers and fathers raise their children or reprogram the way kids think.”

The statement echoes the narrative many Republicans around the country have promulgated in recent months: that the nation’s schools have been taken over by “critical race theory” and “gender ideology,” two terms used broadly to refer to the teaching of race- and LGBTQ-related topics.

“To satisfy the Administration’s thirst for social engineering, they are committed to stripping little kids of their childhoods,” Pennacchio said. “These are age-inappropriate issues that have no place in elementary classrooms and certainly should have parental consent when being addressed.”

Three of the four bills Pennacchio highlighted are reintroduced versions of older bills related to school transparency: one would require schools to make curriculum plans available to parents and the public, another would mandate that boards of education post their meeting schedules at least 48 hours in advance, and a third would more broadly increase transparency in state funding.

The final bill, introduced with State Sen. Michael Testa (R-Vineland), removes state requirements that diversity-related instruction be provided in grades K-8. Pennacchio and Testa have also joined forces on a separate fifth bill which would prohibit teachers from advocating for political beliefs or teaching “critical race theory.”

In some states, similar legislation has made significant headway; most famously, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed the Parental Rights in Education Act – better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill – into law, with potentially wide-ranging impacts on LGBTQ instruction in Florida schools.

But in New Jersey, where Democrats control both houses of the legislature and the governorship, such bills have little shot at becoming law. Notably, none of the bills Pennacchio highlighted today have ever come up for a vote in committee.

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