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Chiera talks public education’s past, present and future at ELC event

On May 4, the Education Law Center marked its 50th anniversary with the panel “Promise and Perils in Public Education: Past, Present, and Future” at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark.

Among the panelists was AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera. When asked by panel moderator and ELC Executive Director Robert Kim how the teaching profession has changed, she said that in the years since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools transitioned from “teaching all subjects [and] looking at the whole child” to “if it’s not tested, it’s not important.” 

“And I think we’re seeing the effects of this today because subjects like history and civics and social studies all went down the drain,” she added. “Now we’re realizing how important those subjects were to bring our students into a society so they [could be] functioning adults.”

On some of the biggest challenges facing schools today, Chiera said, “Who would ever think that in 2023 we’re banning books? … We need to bring the parent voice in, but parents [must understand] that their children are going into a world with many views and many cultures, and they need to understand how to live in a global society.”

Chiera emphasized the need to invest in career technical education (CTE) — “and not in high school. We need to start that in our middle schools and talking about it in our elementary schools.”

She also mentioned that some of New Jersey’s minority-serving higher education institutions are “fighting for their lives because of funding issues. … While we’re making [higher education] more accessible and more affordable, the universities that these students will be going to in their regional area may not be there.”