Home>Education>Republicans rag on state education standards in hearing, ad spoof

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

Republicans rag on state education standards in hearing, ad spoof

Sex ed remains controversial flashpoint in state politics

By Joey Fox, August 24 2022 1:05 pm

Though the red-hot ire among conservatives over New Jersey’s educational curriculum seems to have somewhat died down since last spring, state Republicans reignited the issue this week, holding a hearing yesterday on state educational standards and releasing a spoof video mocking the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).

Yesterday’s virtual hearing, hosted by State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) and several other Senate Republicans, focused on sex education in public schools. Sex ed has been a major source of contention since sample gender- and sexual orientation-focused lesson plans in Westfield, which were not intended for actual use, went viral last spring.

“Under the guise of diversity, inclusion, and equality, we have seen what I view as a sexual indoctrination of our children as young as four and five years old,” Pennacchio said at the beginning of the hearing. “We would expect … respect and tolerance for parents and their absolute rights, as parents, to determine what is in the best interests of their children.”

Today, Republicans continued on that same tack with a video parodying a recent TV commercial from the NJEA, the state’s influential teachers’ union, that called those attacking the state standards “extremists.”

“We should all agree that your kids belong to us,” a robotic narrator intones in the GOP video. “So stop resisting our agenda, and accept that you have no control over your children’s education. To all the radical extremist parents out there: back off. We are the NJEA.”

Republican legislators have introduced a series of bills on the subject, including several limiting when and how sex education can be taught and another that symbolically opposes the state learning standards adopted in 2020. (The learning standards themselves contain little mention of the pornographic and age-inappropriate material Republicans cite, and there is already an option for parents to opt their children out of sex ed.)

Democrats have lambasted the Republican attacks as regressive and anti-LGBTQ, but some Democratic legislators have still taken steps to address parental concerns about transparency. A bill sponsored by State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) and Assemblywoman Linda Carter (D-Plainfield) increasing transparency in the sex ed curriculum passed legislative committee last spring – over the vociferous objection of conservatives who said it didn’t go far enough.

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