"Controversial issues" legislation in New Jersey reintroduced again

New Jersey statehouse.

New Jersey's Assembly Bill 514, which would require the state board of education to adopt rules to prevent public school teachers in the state from engaging in what it describes as "political, ideological or religious advocacy in the classroom" and establish penalties for violations "up to and including termination of employment," was introduced and referred to the Assembly Education Committee on January 9, 2024.

The rules demanded by the bill would require teachers to "provide students with materials supporting both sides of a controversial issue being addressed and to present both sides in a fair-minded and nonpartisan manner," where "controversial issue" was defined as "an issue that is part of an electoral party platform at the local, state, or federal level." As Ars Technica (January 29, 2019) observed in discussing a spate of similar measures in 2019, "a large number of state party platforms specifically mention evolution and climate change."

Introduced by Gerard Scharfenberger (R-District 13) and Robert Auth (R-District 39), Assembly Bill 514 is substantially similar to their Assembly Bill 783 in 2022-2023 and Assembly Bill 6136 in 2020-2021, as well as to Senate Bill 598 in 2022-2023 and Senate Bill 4166 in 2020-2021. All of these bills died in committee when the legislative session ended. A Senate counterpart to Assembly Bill 514 has not yet been introduced.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.