Archives for category: New Jersey

Three New Jersey bloggers–Jersey Jazzman, Marie Corfield, and Ani McHugh–here jointly respond to Tom Moran, chief editorial writer for the Star-Ledger and chief cheerleader for Newark’s state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson. Their open letter was jointly posted on their blogs at 7 a.m. This morning. Although Moran has ignored them and any other critics of the Christie-Anderson plan to eliminate public schools in Newark, they are hoping that their collaboration might get his attention.

They write:

“Until now, your pieces in the Star-Ledger about Newark’s school system and the reorganization of the district have been ill-informed and reckless. You’ve ignored the warnings of teachers, parents, community leaders, researchers, and students, preferring instead to cling to recycled talking points crafted by those with scant little experience in education policy, but much to gain in profits.

“You’ve paid a price: like your ridiculous attempt to walk back from your disastrous endorsement of Chris Christie, your continuing effort to support State Superintendent Cami Anderson while distancing yourself from the consequences of her catastrophic leadership has shredded any integrity you had left as a journalist. Any standing your newspaper had left as a champion of the people of Newark has also eroded: as with Anderson, no one in the city trusts you or the Star-Ledger’s editorial page anymore.
“Shame on you for refusing to educate yourself about the policies you endorse.”

“But as awful as your previous meanderings about Newark’s schools have been, at least you never had the bad taste to try to pawn off Anderson’s failures and your own poor judgement to others. At least you never tried to make the case that the impending disaster of One Newark was the fault of anyone but the Christie administration, its appointed superintendent, and her enablers in government and the press.

“This week, however, you crossed that line. We have tried individually in the past to get your attention and set the record straight to no avail (see all the links later in this piece). Therefore, we—professional educators with a combined total of seven degrees, a PhD in the works, and 38 years of teaching experience—who, along with countless others across this state, have stood against the illogical, faith-based, and racist education policies you espouse for Newark regularly from your position of influence, have come together to deliver you a message.”

They document that Newark’s charters do not serve the same population as Newark Public Schools. They do not have the same proportion of students who are poor, have special needs, or don’t speak English.

They write:

“The sad truth is that parents in your town of Montclair (or any other mostly white, mostly wealthy suburban community) would never willingly subject their own children to what’s happening in Newark right now:

“Public schools being closed without community input

“Children in the same family being sent to different schools in different parts of town on a transportation system that’s never been tested

“Tax dollars going to a school system that is separate and unequal: that segregates the neediest students from those who are the easiest and least expensive to educate

“The harsh, unforgiving “no excuses” disciplinary policies that are characteristic of so many charter schools

“Mass layoffs of education professionals

“A superintendent who has been a colossal failure at fiscal management

“Schools in such disrepair that they are unsafe to occupy

“A superintendent who refuses to listen, who refuses to attend board of ed meetings, and who is not supported by the community

“In fact, the parents of Montclair are fighting back right now, but you have not written one word about it. Why is it okay for them to fight back, but when the parents of Newark do so, you accuse them of “shrieking” and being “shrill and unreasonable”? Are the parents of Newark not smart enough to know what’s good for their own children? Don’t you think they can smell a rat as well as someone from the ‘burbs?

“Public education belongs to the public. The board of ed is answerable to all the people. But in Newark? Meh, what do those people know? They have no money, so they have no voice. They aren’t the right skin color, so they have no voice. They can’t write big campaign checks, so they have no voice. They aren’t concerned parents. They are, in your words:”

They write much more.

You can read their cri de coeur, their plea for fairness for the children and parents of Newark here, here, here, and here.

This is a column that will raise the rafters, curl your hair, or make you shake with rage. It should.

Bob Braun, who started his own blog after writing for New Jersey’s largest newspaper, “The Star-Ledger,” for 50 years, is furious. This week, when schools start in New Jersey, the children of Newark will get on buses and be distributed to schools across the district. This is Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” plan, and Braun is fearful that children will be lost or harmed. He calls on the ministers (this was published on Saturday) to pray for the safety of the children.

Cami Anderson wants Newark to look like New Orleans, so she must break up any attachments to neighborhood schools, destroy the idea that the school has anything to do with the community. So the children must be dispersed, far from home.

This is Braun’s message to the ministers, to Governor Christie, to Cami Anderson, and to Tom Moran, the chief editorial writer of “The Star-Ledger,” who thinks Cami walks on water. Braun writes:

“While I am not a religious person, I will take a lesson from one of the readings scheduled for services tomorrow, at least in Catholic churches, the denomination in which I was raised. The first reading comes from Jeremiah 20:7-9:

“Whenever I speak, I must cry out…outrage is my message.”

“So where is the outrage in the face of the mistreatment of thousands of Newark children who will be transported all over the city in a transportation plan that won’t be implemented until the first day it will be used? No feasibility tests. No dry runs. No studies to determine whether it will work. Every first day of school in every community is chaotic under the best of circumstances–imagine what it will be like Thursday.

“Where is the outrage? For The Star-Ledger, I wrote about education for nearly 30 years. When some suburban school superintendent tried to alter the district lines of one school to adjust for enrollment changes, the community would rise in anger and often block the plan. In Newark, massive changes and disruptions are about to occur–and, yes, there has been anger and there has been outrage, but no one is listening. No one outside the city cares….

“Let us hope nothing happens to the children of Newark. But also pray for justice if harm does befall even just one of these precious young people. Justice for people like Gov. Chris Christie, who knows how to buy friends, even among clergy, but who does not know how to feel for the city’s children. Justice for people like Cami Anderson who, by my measure of thinking, somehow managed to lose her soul in her strivings for personal ambition. For David Hespe, the education commissioner who, like Pontius Pilate, washed his hands of the problem….

“We know what is about to happen is only happening because the residents of the city are poor, powerless and possess a skin color darker than that of Christie, Hespe, and Anderson. We know this would never happen in a predominantly white suburb.

“I am sorry to have to say this to the people of Newark: To many of your brothers and sisters in New Jersey, you–and your children–simply don’t count very much. They blame you for taxes. They blame you for school failure.

“Christie has all but said that the education of Newark children is not a moral obligation or a civic challenge. Rather he believes it is an expense that he would rather not have the rest of the state pay. He would be just as happy to see everyone in Newark disappear and just leave the gleaming towers owned by his friends standing.

“The “One Newark” plan is a slow means of doing just that. The poor and the needy will be isolated and driven from the city. A chain of privately operated charter schools will be made available for the eventual gentrification of the city. The powerful will allow a small percentage of people of color to attain success but there will be no effort to save the rest from poverty. Their children will be warehoused.”

Here are his words for the chief editorial writer of the state’s largest newspaper:

“I know of at least one colleague who is so blinded in his worship of Cami Anderson that he cannot see she is inept and arrogant and consistently unable to make wise choices. I don’t know why he believes that but, God forgive me, I do resent that he believes I will have contributed to the travesty when “One Newark” fails.

“This colleague, a columnist and chief editorial writer for The Star-Ledger (a newspaper I served for nearly 50 years and deeply loved), contends those who oppose what he admits is an “untested” plan “don’t seem to give a damn about the children.”

“Who would want their own children subjected to an “untested” plan? Why is it okay for Newark children to be used as guinea pigs, but not Montclair or Scotch Plains children? How can someone be so unforgivably blind and indifferent to others? How can a major metropolitan daily print such offensive rot? Where are the editors who exercise reasonable restraint on this man’s hero worship?

“How can a sentient being write such incredibly stupid words? I guess I have to hold with Friedrich Schiller that “Against stupidity, even the gods are invictorious.” Those opponents are parents. If he–or Star-Ledger reporters–would bother to look into what’s happening, they would see the opposition is run, not by unions, not by politicians, but by moms and dads, by people who care about their children.

“Yes, Mr. Editorial Writer, black mothers and fathers proud are about their kids, worried about them, wanting the best for them, working in ways you could never understand to help them. Just because they don’t live in the suburbs where you live, just because they don’t look like you, just because they can’t live on one job but need two or three to survive, doesn’t mean they d0n’t love their children. Please, you and your newspaper are abandoning the city and you haven’t cared about it for decades anyway (I know, I was there)–so why don’t you just shut up?

“Please, just shut up.”

Bob Braun is New Jersey’s Jeremiah. Outrage is his message. He will not be silent in the face of injustice. He will not curry favor with the powerful. He is angry. And, unlike those who are playing games with the lives of the children of Newark, his conscience is clear.

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

Date: August 26, 2014, 7:04:33 AM EDT
To: okaikor@me.com

Subject: Statement from PULSE on Newark Boycott

Statement from PULSE
CALL TO ACTION

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
info@npsboycott4freedom.com

What is needed:

Volunteers
Canvassers
Phone bankers
For Freedom Schools
Space
Food Donations
Instructors
Volunteer

For volunteers click here : Help now!

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?

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