By Mary Ann Koruth at

The state Department of Education was noticeably missing from Thursday’s Senate Education Committee’s hearing on the pandemic’s impact on education even as schools reel from staffing shortages and closures due to a surge in COVID-19 infections.

Representatives from the department, Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive arm that oversees K-12 schools, were absent “despite being invited to testify,” said a visibly disappointed Democrat Sen. Teresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee.

“If I sound angry, I am,” said Ruiz, in her opening remarks as she vowed to continue to work to change education, whether the Department of Education “acts or not.”

The Department of Education did not respond to requests for information on why a representative did not attend the two-hour hearing attended by the state’s two largest teachers unions, education policy watchdog JerseyCAN, senators and representatives of state associations of school nurses, business officials and principals and supervisors.

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