This is a letter sent by four members of the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee,– Kristin Corrado, Jon M. Bramnick, Anthony M. Bucco, and Michael Testa—to Committee Chair Brian Stack. The letter expresses “concerns” about Gov. Murphy’s nomination of Mary Bennett to the State Board of Education, especially because it was labeled as a “non-interview” position, which waives the requirement she be required to answer questions from the Judiciary Committee. Bennett also didn’t disclose on her Nominee Questionnaire her affiliation with a group that, in the name of integration, challenges certain kinds of school choice like public charter schools. (See here for more.) The Judiciary Committee was schedule to vote on Bennett’s confirmation yesterday but, in response to this letter, the nomination was pulled temporarily from the agenda.
Dear Chairman Stack:
We write to express concerns about a nomination that is scheduled for a vote at the next meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, January 30, 2023. Specifically, the nomination of Ms. Mary Bennett to be a member of the State Board of Education is presently listed on the Committee’s agenda to be heard as a “non-interview” position, meaning, unlike other important positions in State government, she will not be required to appear before the Committee
In light of the significant role that Board members play, we ask for your commitment that Ms. Bennett’s nomination be held until such time that she can be invited to appear before the Committee.
As you are aware, the State Board of Education is empowered to adopt rules and regulations that implement State education laws and facilitate supervision and governance of the State’s over 2,500 public schools, which serve approximately 1.4 million students. In addition, the Board advises on educational policies proposed by the Commissioner and confirms Department of Education staff appointments made by the Commissioner. The Board is comprised of 13 members who serve an initial six-year term. Historically, members have often remained in holdover status for many years thereafter. Therefore, it is clear that, once confirmed by the Senate, a nominee to the State Board of Education will wield significant policy-making authority over the lives of millions of students and parents for many years to come.
Unfortunately, we must also note that in recent times the State Board of Education has been at the center of a number of controversies, many of which remain ongoing, including the following:
Based on the forgoing, we trust that you will agree that such a position should not be filled lightly and that, instead, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should have a meaningful opportunity to fulfill their constitutional duty to provide Advice and Consent by raising issues that are important to the People of New Jersey in an open public forum.
We thank you for your consideration of this request and we stand willing to discuss this matter with you at your convenience.
Senators Kristin Corrado, Jon M. Bramnick, Anthony M. Bucco, and Michael Testa
Five Facts About A Request to Intervene In a Lawsuit Seeking to Deny School Choice to Low-Income New Jersey Families.