When Maud Maron, now running against longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney to represent New York’s 12th district in Congress, read the National School Boards Association’s letter to President Biden demanding action against parents who showed up to protest at school board meetings, she had an uncomfortable thought: this letter is about me.
In a guest column at iconoclast Bari Weiss’ “Common Sense” space on Substack, Maron explained why she reacted so strongly to the NSBA’s plea that Homeland Security and the Patriot Act be enlisted against these troublesome parents. “I am a mother of four, a criminal defense attorney and a lifelong liberal who is deeply concerned about the direction of New York City’s public schools,” Maron wrote. “I’ve been outspoken about my views, along with an untold number of frustrated parents. For that, the FBI is considering using the PATRIOT Act against me.”
A Barnard College English major, resident of New York’s trendy Soho neighborhood, and a lawyer who had spent her career as a public defender, Maron was one of the mothers Suzy Weiss profiled in a much-discussed article headlined “Revenge of the Covid Moms,” also on Bari Weiss’s Substack space. “I won’t be chased out of my kid’s school board, or a meeting where I’m called a Karen because I say ‘Hey, maybe we should keep the honors math program,’” Maron told Suzy Weiss. “Covid Moms” is Suzy Weiss’ term for mothers across the country who, having been politicized by the failures of the public schools during Covid, are running for office.
Suzy Weiss dubbed Maron “the elder statesman of the Angry Moms. She’s one of those classic big-city liberals — pro-choice, a longtime public defender at Legal Aid, a Bernie Sanders contributor — who from 2017 to 2019 was president of one of Manhattan’s six school boards.”
Maron is running in a crowded field in the Democratic primary. Incumbent Maloney, who made a splash showing up at last year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art annual Costume Institute gala in a suffragette-themed gown with “Equal Rights for Women” and ERA emblazed multiple times on it, was first elected to Congress in 1993. As a result of redistricting, there are many new neighborhoods and Maron believes she can win.
Maron got a good, up-close look at the New York public school system—her kids go to public schools—as both a mother and involved member of her community. “My youngest hadn’t been born yet when I decided to join my community board and got on the education committee and felt some frustration with what I was seeing happening in the kids’ schools with the decision-making that was going on,” Maron tells IWF. She learned that education activists and professionals often didn’t care what parents wanted for their children.
“I saw a disconnect between what parents wanted and were pushing for to improve the academics of schools and a lot of what elected officials and a certain activist set were talking about,” Maron recalls. “Some parents, but even nonparents, people whose kids had already aged out of the system, and this activist crowd were endlessly talking about integration and segregation, which were really not the right words to describe what ails New York City schools.
“In many places, it’s hard to know without polling or data what parents want,” Maron continues, “but we have this unique way of telling you what most parents want in New York City public schools. We have a system where kids apply for middle school and then apply into high school.
“We use an algorithm where parents rank their first twelve choices of middle schools and high schools. So, the great thing about that dataset is that it tells you exactly what parents want. The schools in highest demand are the ones with the best academic records.
“So, what we had was parents seeking the schools that deliver the best academics, that had advanced math programs, and then we have this activist group of parents saying that what parents really want is more equity and more fairness. In order to do that, we are told that we have to get rid of academic screens, because there were screen programs where kids had to test into these academically rigorous programs. I remember thinking, but that’s not what parents want. What parents want is more of the academically rigorous, demanding programs because there aren’t enough seats available in those programs. And so that was the start of the clash that led me to where I am now.
“So, basically, I got more and more active in school advocacy,” Maron continues. “I ran for my school board and was elected to two terms of that school board. It’s called the Community Education Council in New York. And I started to speak up about things like the specialized high school exam in New York City, the gifted and talented program in New York City, because an activist class of parents and nonparents were targeting really successful academic programs to get rid of them in the name of equity, racial justice, the sort of social justice that they were seeking. And I didn’t agree with that, as other parents didn’t, but there was a tremendous reluctance in those years in 2017, 18, 19, for people to speak up about these issues because there was the cudgel of the accusation of racism or of being insufficiently caring that was starting to be wielded more and more and more.”
I was instructed to refer to myself as a ‘white woman’ — as if my whole life reduces to my race.
Maron was born in New York City. Her parents were divorced, and for the first years of her life she lived with her mother, a nurse at the prestigious Lenox Hill Hospital, in an apartment on the upper west side. When Maud’s mother remarried, she was adopted by her stepfather, an orthopedic surgeon who also worked at Lennox Hill, and the family moved to Easton, Pennsylvania.
“I had a very, very happy childhood with a mom and a dad,” Maud recalls. “I’m the oldest of four. My mom was a full-time stay-at-home mother, who was involved in our schools and in community issues. I went to a private school in Pennsylvania called Moravian Academy, a small school, not many Moravians in it, but a lovely school. I loved growing up in Pennsylvania. It’s a great, great town that I grew up in. But I came back to New York City as fast as I could, to go to college. I graduated from Barnard College and Cardozo Law School, which are both here in New York City, and then I started working at Legal Aid right out of law school.”
Even while at Cardozo Law School, where she studied under former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver (Cleaver called Maron “an excellent research assistant”), Maron aspired to work as a public defender. She realized that ambition when she joined the staff of the Legal Aid Society immediately after graduating from law school in 1993. She left in 2006 after the birth of her first child and returned to work in 2017. Maud regarded being a public defender as more than a job. “It’s who I am,” she said.
“If you google ‘bleeding heart liberal,’” Bari Weiss wrote of her, “Maud Maron might well turn up as the first hit. Every cause liberals are supposed to fight for, every group they are supposed to champion, every candidate they are supposed to support — well, that was Maron’s not so atypical life and career. Until recently.”
It’s the failure to provide high-quality education for all kids across the board that is really grossly racist, and really driving the inequities that we see in society.
Yes. Until recently. Maron wasn’t happy with what she saw as a rejection of high academic standards, especially crucial to helping minority kids get ahead, and she said so. She began to speak out on indoctrination as a substitute for learning in New York’s public schools. As President of Community Education Council 2, Maud allowed herself to be quoted in the New York Post claiming that racism wasn’t the reason many kids were failing in school. “The simplistic narrative that is being peddled is white privilege,” she said.
Maron launched an unsuccessful campaign for City Council and continued to air her unpopular opinions, especially about education and her objections to dropping standardized entrance exams for academically rigorous public schools. In 2019, Maron learned that she was under investigation because of complaints from Black Attorneys of Legal Aid Caucus and Attorneys of Color of Legal Aid. “None of this would have happened if I just said I loved books like White Fragility, and I’m a fan of Bill de Blasio’s proposals for changing New York City public schools, and I planned to vote for Maya Wiley for mayor. The reason they went after me is because I have a different point of view,” she later told Bari Weiss.
Investigators went over Maron’s files and legal cases with a fine-toothed comb and she was exonerated in January of 2020. But in July, she committed her final offense: an op-ed in the New York Post headlined “Racial obsessions make it impossible for NYC schools to treat parents, kids as people.” It is worth quoting the opening sentences:
I am a mom, a public defender, an elected public-school council member and a City Council candidate. But at a city Department of Education anti-bias training, I was instructed to refer to myself as a “white woman” — as if my whole life reduces to my race.
Those who oppose this ideology are shunned and humiliated, even as it does nothing to actually improve our broken schools.
Though facing severe budget cuts, the DOE has spent more than $6 million for the training, which defines qualities such as “worship of the written word,” “individualism” and “objectivity” as “white-supremacy culture.”
The op-ed proved a trigger for Maud’s old critics who had not succeeded in getting her fired in round one. “Maud Maron has no business having a career in public defense, and we’re ashamed that she works for the Legal Aid Society,” the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid Caucus said in a long statement. “Maud is racist, and openly so,” they added, offering no evidence.
The Black Attorneys of Legal Aid Caucus added that Maron “is one of many charlatans who took this job not out of a desire to make a difference, but for purposes of self-imaging.” It further alleged, “She pretends to favor integration while fighting against it and denying the existence of racism in education.”
Although one of Maron’s former supervisors described her work as “beyond terrific,” the Black Attorneys Caucus made devastating public statements about her skills as a lawyer. The upshot was that Maron was fired from her job and is now suing the Legal Aid Society. The crusade against Maron spilled over to the school board. “There was like a low-level campaign against me,” she tells IWF, “people coming to the school board saying that my viewpoints were racist because I was promoting the idea that we should have academically rigorous programs. Which, by the way, I find to be the most racist thing in the world. Because people who say we’re never going to get black kids into really academically strong programs unless we lower the standards, those are the real racists.”
As a result of redistricting, there are many new neighborhoods and Maron believes she can win.
“They are the real racists, full stop,” she emphasizes. “Because the idea that we can let teachers’ unions and adults who make money off of education wash their hands of the responsibility of teaching kids, especially poor kids in tough circumstances, to read and do math at a grade level and instead we can blame it on some amorphous concept of racism that attaches to hard math tests is ridiculous.
“It’s not the tests that are racist and it’s not the parents who are demanding high-quality education that are racist. It’s the failure to provide high-quality education for all kids across the board that is really grossly racist, and really driving the inequities that we see in society. If the vast majority of kids graduated from New York City public schools fully prepared to go on to college-level work, that’s what we should be aiming for. That’s what we need. That would address child poverty and help pull children out of poverty, and that is what our education dollars should be used for. But instead, we’re having endless diversity, equity, and inclusion workshops, and gender ideology nonsense being pumped into our kids for millions of dollars in a way that doesn’t actually help anybody learn how to read or become a better, more informed citizen or be a better, more competitive job applicant. And I’m done with it. I’m tired of pretending.”
Maron is married to Juan Pallordet, an Argentine immigrant who runs a private equity business. They met on a blind date twenty years ago. Their four children attend New York public schools, and Juan is active on the leadership team at his sons’ school. “We keep very involved in our children’s schools,” Maud says. “There are tremendous failures in New York public schools, but there are also good schools. My kids go to schools that have a lot to commend them. There are things that could be better, but they have a lot to commend them. For me, the idea is to improve and replicate what’s good as opposed to tearing down what is good in the name of equity.”
Maron admits that her kids sometimes encounter the trendy ideas she opposes in their schools. “What I try to do about it is have conversations with my kids,” she explains. “Gender ideology is not exactly Critical Race Theory, but it is sort of a kissing cousin, if you will. It all comes out of the same sort of deconstructionist view of the world. And I’ll say that my two oldest kids have started using the phrase sex assigned at birth. And I say to them nobody assigned you a sex at birth. You’re a boy, or a girl, or male or female. That’s it. We just observed your sex at birth. There’s no mystery there. It’s not a hard one.”
Maud considers herself a classical liberal whose political philosophy has not changed drastically since she became a public defender. She is upbeat about her campaign. She believes that redistricting opened up the field and there are a number of candidates, even against a long-term incumbent like Maloney. “I am at this point one of five, maybe six people running for this seat,” she says. “That’s also very helpful for a candidate like me because I am the moderate centrist candidate and there’s a bunch of people arguing over on the Left to show each one is more lefty than the other, and they can fight over that vote. I’m going to camp out here in the middle where I think a lot of New Yorkers are these days, who want common sense solutions around our economy, around foreign policy, around public safety, and around education.”
The primary is June 28. This could just be the year of the Covid mom.