Getting Our Message Across: Supporting Journalism, Public Education, and Public Institutions

On June 5, Education Law Center hosted our 15th annual Education Justice Lecture: The Education Beat: Journalism, Education Equity, and How to Get the Education Message Across. This virtual event featured a keynote presentation by former Washington Post columnist and longtime education journalist, Valerie Strauss, and a response panel featuring NJ Spotlight Founding Editor and former Star-Ledger education reporter, John Mooney, and RALLY Principal, Ashley Burns. The event was moderated by ELC Executive Director, Robert Kim.

In her keynote address, Ms. Strauss shared her experiences as an education reporter, offering insight into the changing landscape of journalism throughout her career and reflecting on the many challenges public education has faced and is facing across the country. She provided political and historical context for some of the most pressing education policy issues of the last several decades, including efforts to undermine public education through private school vouchers. Ms. Strauss called on advocates to work collaboratively to create campaigns in support of public education and counter myths that create distrust of public schools and other public institutions.

In his response, Mr. Mooney shared his background in print journalism, beginning with his early days covering school board elections in Boston before moving to larger publications in New Jersey, the Bergen Record and the Star-Ledger, where he covered the Abbott v. Burke case. He reflected on the evolution of education policy issues in New Jersey, from school finance to school vouchers, assessment, and charter schools, and more recently school desegregation. Mr. Mooney also added his observations on the evolution of the media, including the decline in the number of journalists, the reliance on storytelling, and the importance of social media to engage with younger audiences.

In her remarks, Ms. Burns talked about an analysis of media coverage carried out by RALLY, which found that certain news outlets manufactured the crisis of “critical race theory” or “CRT” by publishing inaccurate and biased information. This set the tone for local and national battles framing equity or inclusive curriculum as controversial. Ms. Burns explained that “disinformation poisoned the narrative” but that tapping into shared values can lift up the truth and change public sentiment. She urged the audience to center families in their messaging, to focus on the importance of public education for our communities and democracy, and to lead with aspiration and engage with curiosity.

During a lively discussion, the panelists emphasized the importance of local journalism and provided webinar participants with tips for engaging with the media and getting their messages across, including:

  • Expressing to media owners and decisionmakers the need for news coverage on public education;

  • Cultivating relationships with local journalists and pitching them story ideas;

  • Writing opinion pieces and letters to the editor on issues that matter;

  • Using effective storytelling to illuminate the challenges facing public education;

  • Engaging with business leaders and other groups that support and benefit from public education; and

  • Subscribing to newsletters and setting up news alerts to stay up to date on education policy developments.

Despite the challenges facing both journalism and public education, the panelists remained optimistic about the value of these incredibly important institutions and encouraged participants to stand up, speak up, and take action.

ELC thanks NJEA, AFT NJ, ETS, White & Case, the Newark Teacher’s Union, and Arnold & Porter, perennial sponsors of the Education Justice Lecture, along with the many organizations, law firms, businesses and individuals whose contributions support ELC’s advocacy on behalf of the nation’s public school students.

A recording of the lecture is available here. An electronic copy of the event journal is available here.

To make a tax-deductible contribution to ELC, please click here.

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Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240