Archives for category: New Jersey

From: “Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE)”

Date: August 26, 2014, 7:04:33 AM EDT

Subject: Statement from PULSE on Newark Boycott

Statement from PULSE

On December 19, 2013, the Superintendent of Newark Public Schools announced the “One Newark Plan,” which threatens to displace students from their neighborhood schools. In response, Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE) is currently working with the Newark community, particularly in the South Ward, to implement a boycott of the Newark Public Schools starting on September 4th, 2014.

The ‘NPS Boycott 4 Freedom’ is an act of resistance and a statement against the One Newark Plan – Governor Christie and Superintendent Cami Anderson’s destructive practices. These practices have consistently worked to tear our communities and schools apart, leaving our schools and students in need of resources, and community driven neighborhood schools that are culturally relevant and responsive to the needs of the students and community. The parents and community members of Newark can no longer allow these practices that are not only lacking research and democratic ideals, but will potentially harm our children, and community. Governor Christie and Superintendent Cami Anderson are not acting upon our concerns, and we have decided to escalate our actions so that they can no longer continue to ignore our concerns. This boycott is a statement to all that the people of Newark demand the right to run and operate the school district through a democratically elected and empowered school board; in other words, local control of schools. We cannot allow Governor Christie, the state appointed Cami Anderson and the One Newark Plan to dictate how we educate our children.

The most recent revelation as written about in Bob Braun’s Ledger on August 13th regarding the long overdue plans for safe transport of our children under the One Newark Plan reveals that Superintendent Cami Anderson is woefully unprepared. The plan is deficient, if not dangerous, and will not even be implemented until well after the school year begins. We will not allow our children’s safety to be jeopardized by a superintendent and plan that does not care about our children. We will not subject our children to the malfeasance of the NPS leadership. We will do what is right for our children.

Starting in August PULSE has organized community canvasses to discuss the boycott with residents, focusing on the South Ward, and to gain support. The response can best be characterized as relief that there is a movement growing to provide an alternative to the One Newark Plan.

We are working with community leaders, clergy, teachers, nurses and elected officials to ensure there is a clear understanding of the purpose and plan for the boycott. We are establishing Freedom School locations that will provide safe educational environments for the children participating in the boycott. This boycott will succeed when our community demonstrates solidarity in the face of Governor Christie’s callous disregard for the people of Newark and the destructive One Newark Plan being implemented by his state appointed Superintendent. We all have important roles to play in the boycott.

We welcome support and look forward to working with all of us who share the vision of ensuring our children have equal access to excellent public education in a Newark Public School district under local leadership.

General Inquiries:

call 973 544-8359

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P.O. Box 22645
Newark, New Jersey

Parents Unified for Local School Education | P.O. Box 22645 | Newark | NJ | 07102

Veteran journalist Bob Braun tells the story of a poor black grandmother trying to register her granddaughter in the high that she wanted to attend, that her children had attended, and being treated with disrespect.

Braun hopes that Newark parents will boycott Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” plan, where she chooses and others are expected to obey.

Here is “choice” at its worst.

Cami Anderson, Governor Chris Christie’s pick to run the state-controlled Newark schools, is closing public schools to make way for charter schools. All children get new assignments.

The Tillman family used to attend the Newton Street school, across the street from their home. Their father, George Tillman, Jr., walked his five children to school every day. But under the “One Newark” plan, the five siblings were assigned to five different schools. After the father complained to News 12 New Jersey, a local television station, a school official moved all the children to the same school, the Dr. E. Alma Flagg School.

“Tillman believes he was vocal enough to get the chance, but others aren’t as lucky.

“I’m not the only family that’s been affected like this,” Tillman says. “There’s a lot of kids that are being dispersed throughout the city.”
So far, about 1,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the schools go back to local control. Some parents say they are going to boycott all the schools during September.”

This was not the Tillman family’s choice. They liked their neighborhood school. That choice was no longer available to them.

As we know, the “reformers” love disruption, especially for other people’s children, not their own. On the first day of Cami Anderson’s “One Newark,” they got plenty of disruption.

He writes:

“The implementation of the deeply flawed “One Newark” student-dispersal program all but collapsed Thursday as the state administration’s highly paid bureaucrats kept hundreds of angry and frustrated parents and children waiting in un-airconditioned school rooms or outside in 90+ heat to register their children for the few remaining public school seats. Just hours into the chaos, Newark school officials locked the doors to Newark Vocational and told the men, women, and children waiting outside to come back at 5 a.m. the next morning.” They didn’t understand that many parents work two or three hours a day, in addition to their teacher-helper days….”

“The “One Newark” plan was devised by Cami Anderson, the $300,000-a-year state-imposed superintendent who is consistently praised, despite her incompetence, by the man who appointed (and just reappointed) her, Gov. Chris Christie. It was developed in secret with the help of charter school operators and former Mayor Cory Booker using consltants who were paid millions in fees to devise the scheme. It empties and closes public schools and enhances the fortunes of private, charter school operators….”

“Anderson is closing the neighborhood schools. The charters are picking up students with the least problems while those with the greatest need–like special education students–are assigned to what is left of the public school stock.”

Highland Park, New Jersey, bought out its controversial superintendent Timothy Capone for $112,766 (less than a year’s salary), although he had another three years to go on his contract.

Jersey Jazzman had previously written about Capone and identified him as a “reformer” connected to Chris Cerf who was anti-union and focused solely on test scores. Among his first actions was to fire nine employees, who happened to include the president and vice-president of the local teachers’ union.

He managed to alienate parent groups as well, and school board meetings tended to be standing-room-only, raucous affairs.

The lesson here, it would seem, is that controversial “reforms” can succeed where there is mayoral control or districts controlled by the state. But in a typical district with an elected school board, superintendents must practice the arts of persuasion and collaboration with parents, teachers, and the community. Not easy, but that’s leadership.

Hopefully, you read Owen Davis’ story about what was driving charter expansion in Newark. It precedes this one in the queue.

In this post, EduShyster interviews Owen Davis about his investigation of the Newark situation. What’s the story? Money and real estate. Gentrification. What used to be called “slum clearance.” $5 billion in bonds for charter construction. I have reached a point where I long for a financial writer to take an interest in this burgeoning industry.

The education side is almost as puzzling as the financial side. Most of the teachers in the new charter schools are Teach for America recruits, so they are likely in their first or second year of teaching, then they will be gone. How can this kind of teacher churn produce sustainable change? Why do conservatives want to eliminate public education?

The title of this article has a one-word answer: money. In this shocking article, journalist Owen Davis explains how the expansion of charters in Newark is driven by two factors:

1) the availability of millions of dollars in federal school construction bonds that have been showered on the charter schools but not the public schools;

2) the Chris Christie administration’s decision to withhold funding specifically designated for the repair and renovation of existing public schools.

Put these two factors together and you get a city with gleaming charter schools and crumbling public schools.

The story is framed around the struggle of a family and a community to keep its public school, Hawthorne, from being shuttered. They eventually win a one-year reprieve, but it feels temporary. The governor and some very wealthy people plan to turn Newark into a free market of schools, and part of their plan is to let them rot, then close them down.

Here is a key element:

“When a charter school moves into a new building, it’s not unusual to see millions of dollars poured into renovations ranging from structural repairs to slick paint jobs. In the case of a school like Hawthorne, plugging the leaky ceilings and safeguarding against mold would likely be top priorities.

“The 2009 federal stimulus authorized states to allocate $22 billion in qualified school construction bonds (QSCBs), which allow cash-strapped schools to secure interest-free bond financing. Banks that finance school construction receive subsidies from the feds equivalent to some benchmark interest rate around 5 percent. Banks can pull in a tidy profit, as can the motley cast of counsels and intermediaries who ink the deals.

“Of the $440 million in QSCBs New Jersey received, nearly three-quarters have been approved – and so far, every penny has gone to charters. TEAM Academy alone gobbled up $138 million. This exclusive allocation of QSCBs to charter schools is highly unusual. California and Texas, for comparison, each allocated less than one-fifth of their QSCBs to charter schools.”

But while all the new money was dedicated to charter schools, state money for repairs dried up:

“Just as New Jersey earmarked its federal school bonds for charters, Christie was busy slashing education budgets and hobbling the department charged with repairing needy urban schools, the School Development Authority (SDA).

“Established in 2000 to remedy stark funding disparities, the SDA controls billions of dollars for construction in disadvantaged districts. When Christie entered office, he shrunk the department’s staff by 30 percent and restricted its outlays to a trickle.

“Basically there wasn’t any work being done,” says Moriah Kinberg of Healthy Schools Now, a coalition that advocates for school repairs. While over 700 projects broke ground in the decade before, not a single project was initiated and completed between 2010 and 2013.”

Newark elected Ras Baraka as its mayor to protest the Christie plan to eliminate public schools. But Christie doesn’t care. He is still in charge of the schools. He is the master.

Jersey Jazzman reacts to Andy Smarick’s call for civil conversations about charter schools. Those conversations won’t happen, JJ says, until reformers tell the truth about charter schools. Where they seem to succeed, they don’t enroll the same students. Or they have high attrition rates. Or they have scads of money. Why not say so.

He quotes Peter Greene on the same subject, in Peter’s inimitable style:

“If charters are tired of press about how they get sweetheart deals with politicians to strip resources from public schools in order to enrich themselves, if they’re tired of stories about how some charter operator got caught in crooked deals, if they’re tired of being raked over the coals for using politics to grease some moneyed wheels– well, their best move would be to stop doing those things.

“If charters are tired of being attacked, they could stop attacking public education, as in the recent charter gathering in which the recurring theme was “Charters are great because public schools suck.” I’m not a fan of “they started it” as an argument, but it’s also specious to declare “all I did was keep calling him names and stealing his lunch, and then he just hit me for no reason!”

It would be good to have that civil conversation that Smarick says he longs for, but it won’t happen unless “reformers” tell the truth about how they stack the deck by excludingthe kids they don’t want and how the big money that gets dropped into their coffers by Walton, Broad, Gates, Arnold, Dell, and even Arne Duncan makes for very unfair comparisons.

And too there must be some discussion about the end game. Where will we be a decade from now if charters cherry pick the students they want, and public schools are left with the students rejected by the charters? Would this not be a dual school system? Can anyone think of another nation with this approach to publicly-funded education?

According to a guest post for EduShyster by high school teacher Keith Benson, The taxpayers of Camden, New Jersey, will spend $82 million to build a practice facility for the Philadelphia 76ers at the same time it is laying off hundreds of school teachers. The new facility will provide 50 low-wage seasonal jobs. This clarifies the priorities of the political leaders of Camden and New Jersey. Education last. Students last.

As Benson writes, “At every turn, the mayor and the *leadership* of Camden start with the assumption that the solution to our city’s problems lies in the hands of outside others. Hence our city leaders are now placing their hopes in corporate-led charter school chains, like Mastery Charter Schools, UnCommon Schools and KIPP (please YouTube some clips of their respective pedagogical techniques), to be staffed with mostly white Teach for America corps members who will only temporarily fill the role of teacher to children desperately needing quality educational leaders and stability. This despite the fact our public schools serve a citizenry mired in generational and concentrated poverty (due largely to historic discriminatory housing and employment policies and inherent structural inequality) that greatly affects students’ scholastic outcomes.”

And so it goes.

The word is getting out. Basing teacher evaluations on test scores is a sham. Or unpopular. Or junk science. Or Gates said not to do it.


Whatever the reason, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has announced that his state will cut back on the importance of test scores in evaluating teachers.


“Governor Christie announced the rollback Monday while ordering the creation of a commission to study the effectiveness and impact of all standardized tests given in the state.

The two actions came amid growing criticism of the new academic standards known as Common Core and the tests linked to them. Many parents have contended that too much testing is harmful to students. The teachers union has argued that the new exams have been rushed, that districts aren’t ready, and that it’s too soon to judge teachers on the results. Political conservatives — a key constituency for potential GOP presidential hopefuls like Christie — believe the standards are a federal intrusion in the classroom, and they have put pressure on governors to roll them back.

“This is an issue that is a national issue,” state Education Commissioner David Hespe said in an interview Monday. “We want to understand all the assessments that our children are taking. We want to know: Are they all necessary and can we do it better? I think the answer is yes.”

The rollback would minimize the impact of tests on teacher evaluations, making them worth 10 percent in the next school year instead of 30 percent. Their portion of teacher evaluations might increase to as much as 20 percent in the next two school years….

The New Jersey Education Association, which represents teachers, welcomed the compromise with the Christie administration.

“The NJEA believes this agreement is the best possible outcome, and it should lead to common-sense, research-based recommendations from the Study Commission,” said Wendell Steinhauer, president of the union.

He pointed to bills in the Senate and the Assembly that would delay the use of tests as teacher performance measures and to create a task force to examine the Common Core standards. Steinhauer said he believes the key reason for Christie’s concession was that the measure had wide public support, was overwhelmingly passed in the Assembly, and was poised to pass in the Senate — which could have forced a gubernatorial veto.

Steve Wollmer, communications director for the union, said the governor saw that the implementation would be a “train wreck” and could have led to greater problems.

In the practice rounds of testing this year, districts reported problems with technology. Parents feared that preparation for tests had dominated classroom instruction.

The commission created by Christie’s executive order will review the effectiveness of all K-12 tests used to assess student knowledge. The commission will look at volume, frequency and impact of student testing throughout New Jersey school districts.

Christie will appoint all nine commission members, who should have expertise or experience in education policy or administration, according to his order. The commission will issue an initial report with recommendations by Dec. 31, and a final report seven months later.

Hespe said the commission will check on whether tests can be used for multiple purposes and whether any are redundant.

Jean McTavish, a Ridgewood parent who had her children opt out of new standardized tests, said she remains skeptical of real change. She worried the tests led teachers to narrow the curriculum and teach to the test, and that liberal arts education was suffering as a result.

“Ultimately, I don’t think this is going to change much, but it’s a good thing people are going to learn more,” she said. “I anticipate this is going to be a long conversation about how best to educate our children.”

The task force will not review the effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards in general, as some critics had wanted. New Jersey adopted the standards in 2010 and was one of 44 states to do so.

The standards, developed with support from governors and business, created a uniform list of what students should learn in English and math by grade level. It was intended to raise standards and better prepare students for college. But controversy and complaints have prompted many states to pass laws in recent months to review or revoke standards.

Political conservatives have been among the harshest critics and have assailed Republicans who support the standards. Christie could face questions about his support for Common Core if he seeks the Republican Party nod for president.

In a press release, Christie touted his commitment to school spending, rigorous education and teacher effectiveness.

“Establishing this commission is just another step in ensuring we’re providing the best quality education possible to our students.”



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