State Board of Ed Nominee: ‘I Think We’re Going to See Less Issues’

Jeanette Pena, Governor Phil Murphy’s nominee for the State Board of Education, faced a battery of aggressive GOP senators this morning as part of her interview for the job.

Ultimately, she generated sufficient support to sail through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I cannot vote against someone who is qualified when there are no other options,” said state Senator Jon Bramnick (R-21).

“You’ve got a great background,” state Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) told Pena.

A bilingual school psychologist with the Jersey City schools, Pena previously served as president of the Union City Board of Education for 13 years.

During the q and a process prior to her passage out of committee, “I am passionate about getting our reading levels up to where they need to be,” Pena told state Senator Mike Testa (R-1).

If New Jersey can get its students back to appropriate reading levels, “I think we’re going to see less issues,” Pena said.

Pena is up for consideration to replace Ernest Lepore, for the term prescribed by law, currently set to expire June 30, 2028.

The context, via NJ Spotlight:

Gov. Phil Murphy continues to face an uphill battle filling the expired seats on the State Board of Education.

Of the six nominees he has announced since September 2022, only one has been confirmed by the Senate. With only a few days left in the legislative session, board members who have been in their seats since former Gov. Chris Christie’s administration or earlier may remain in power for a while longer.

The State Board of Education is a 13-member body tasked with adopting the administrative code, which sets the rules for implementing education law. Since Murphy took office in 2018, no new board members have been seated. Mary Bennett, Murphy’s first nominee to receive the advice and consent of the Senate, could be sworn into the board as early as Jan. 10, the board’s next scheduled meeting. The Department of Education did not respond to a question about when she will be sworn in.


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