Archives for category: New Jersey

John Abeigon, president of the Newark Teachers Union, wrote an article calling on the corporate charter chains to come clean about their finances and their practice of skimming the easiest-to-educate students, and to stop boasting about unverified results.


Abeigon writes:


“The time has come for New Jersey taxpayers to take a close look at corporate-sponsored charter schools in New Jersey. So-called school-choice advocates are pumping millions of dollars into political and advertising campaigns to protect the status quo when it involves the quasi-secret operations of privately managed charter schools in cities like Newark and elsewhere. The strike a wedge between Newark’s parents to draw the attention of taxpayers away from their financial shenanigans.


“The Newark Teachers Union has asked for more transparency in the management of corporate-backed charter schools. The Newark Public Schools have two monthly meetings where the school board and superintendent can be held accountable for the actions of their school. When was the last time the citizens of Newark were invited to a KIPP board meeting? What about Uncommon Schools?


Also, as these charters have grown, banks and corporations have developed ways, and found alternative credit routes, to provide capital to charter schools at favorable rates. What are these rates? And what are they funding? Have taxpayers and state legislators had an opportunity to review these credit applications?


Why are Newark’s corporate-run charters so afraid of transparency and democracy? Are Newark taxpayers allowed to run for election on a North Star Academy school board? Where are their financial statements? Where are their attendance reports? How are they spending taxpayer money? And why must the union be asking these questions?


“Second of all, corporate-charter advocates try to make the argument that Newark parents are “voting with their feet” and leaving public schools. But this is very misleading. Strong community schools like Dayton Street School were closed, forcing students from their communities. And still a vast majority of students elected to choose traditional public schools at their first option when they filled out their choices under One Newark.


“On top of that, the corporate charter industry throws millions of dollars into advertising their schools and broad claims of undocumented success. When was the last time you saw a billboard or TV commercial advertising your local traditional school? Or the many successful magnet high schools in Newark? There is no true choice here, just a financial tidal wave to push parents towards the corporate charter schools. They burn the village down, and then yell as loudly “This village has failed it’s citizens!”


“It is also very misleading when charters tout their successes without providing any evidence beyond their press release. As much as they promise “blind lotteries” are used to select their students, the numbers don’t hold up. Newark’s charter schools somehow manage to end up without the more challenging populations. They have far lower number of special ed, LEP, and poverty students.


“And as the charters expand, they continue to cream off select student groups, leaving the traditional schools with a more concentrated population of more challenging and more expensive students to educate — while draining away the very financial resources needed to provide these students with a quality education.


In contrast to the charters, the Newark Public Schools take students as they are:


“We educate all students, and we are proud of that. No matter what their IEP’s say. No matter what language their parents speak or if their parents are not involved in their lives. No matter if they are homeless or coming to school hungry every morning. That is what a Newark educator does, and shame on corporate-sponsored so-called school-choice advocates for denouncing that work for their financial and professional gain.



Abeigon concludes that if charters really are doing a good job, as they claim, they should open their doors and their books. They should share the secrets of their success, if it is real. Be transparent and be accountable to the public.





New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie is devoted to charter schools. As he has repeatedly demonstrated, he despises the New Jersey Education Association, and charters seldom are unionized. So he gets a twofer: he can privatize and bust the union at the same time. In his state of the state speech, he said he would expand the charter sector. No surprise. But David Hespe, the state commissioner of education, made the goal concrete: 50,000 charter “seats.” 


Hespe’s remarks at the state’s annual School Choice Summit at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City echoed Christie’s Jan. 12 speech. The governor called charter schools a resounding success for the state and said he would “aggressively prioritize” regulatory relief for charter schools.


Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from traditional school districts. If a student leaves their home district to attend a charter school, that district must send a portion of it’s average per-pull funding to the charter school.


Christie has authorized dozens of new charter schools since taking office but the initial flood of new schools has slowed in recent years. Overall, Christie has added 39 new charter schools while closing 17 charter schools for poor academic performance or organizational and fiscal issues.


The state has about 41,500 students enrolled in charter schools and the number will expand to 46,000 as existing charter schools add more grade levels, according to the state Department of Education. The state has not identified a specific timeline for the 50,000 seat goal.


In total, New Jersey more than 1.3 million public school students, Department of Education spokesman David Saenz said.


Christie said his administration will explore ways to create greater flexibility in the teacher certification for charter schools and ways to make it easier for charter schools to find buildings.


To sum it up, the charters take money away from public schools, causing them to lose teachers, increase class size, and cut back programs. This is odd because the state has 1.3 million students, but not quite 50,000 in charters. So the vast majority of students will suffer harm so that the small number in charters can get some of the money the district schools need.


The state will lower standards for teachers in charter schools, thus providing greater flexibility.


The state will seek ways to fund the construction of charter schools or give them  public space. One way to ease that problem would be to seek contributions from the New Jersey hedge fund managers who are strong supporters of charter schools.


The strangest thing about this scenario is that New Jersey is one of the highest performing states on the NAEP, usually scoring either second or their behind Massachusetts. At the same time, it has some cities that contain desperately impoverished families. Charter schools will not diminish their poverty nor will it alleviate the segregation that characterizes these districts, like Newark, Camden, and Paterson.


What Governor Christie’s plan will do is to damage the overall condition of public education, in order to push forward his goal of more “charter seats.”

A new study published in the AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice concludes that the discarded New Jersey standards were more effective at teaching critical standards than the Common Core standards.


The study was conducted and written by Dario Sforza, EDD, a principal in East Rutherford, New Jersey; Christopher H. Tienken, EDD, an associate professor at Seton Hall University; and Eunyoung Kim, PhD, a professor at Seton Hall.


Here is the abstract:




The creators and supporters of the Common Core State Standards claim that the Standards require greater emphasis on higher-order thinking than previous state standards in mathematics and English language arts. We used a qualitative case study design with content analysis methods to test the claim. We compared the levels of thinking required by the Common Core State Standards for grades 9-12 in English language arts and math with those required by the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards in grades 9-12 English language arts and math (used prior to the Common Core) using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge framework to categorize the level of thinking required by each standard. Our results suggest that a higher percentage of the 2009 New Jersey high school curriculum standards in English language arts and math prompted higher-order thinking than the 2010 Common Core State Standards for those same subjects and grade levels. Recommendations for school administrative practice are provided.

Jersey Jazzman gets irked by those who boast about the superior results of charter schools in Newark. He wrote a critical review of Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize, because she ignored basic data about charter schools and she wrote that the charter schools operated with a leaner administration and more services. Not true, says JJ, who in his real life is a teacher and a graduate student at Rutgers University named Mark Weber.


In this post, JJ lays out in easily comprehensible graphs, using state data, what the real comparisons are.


First, he compares the results of a highly-touted charter school in Newark to a suburban public school and shows that the charter school lags. But wait, you think, that’s not a fair comparison, and that is his point.


I don’t point this out to suggest either that Montclair’s schools are superior, or that TEAM/KIPP’s schools are inferior. Without adequately controlling for at least the observed variations in each district’s populations (and acknowledging that there are likely many unobserved variations), any comparison between the two systems is utterly pointless. My point here is that facile, a-contextual, cherry-picked factoids like these are completely meaningless, and that people who bring them up time and again show themselves to be fatuous. 


Using state data, he demonstrates that Newark public schools spend more on instruction than the city’s charter schools; that NPS spends far more on student support services — guidance counselors, nurses, librarians, psychologists — than the charters; that NPS spends more on support personnel than charters; that NPS has lower administrative costs than ANY charter in Newark; that the costs of administrative salaries is lower in Newark public schools than most Newark charters.


Jersey Jazzman has a refreshing impatience with false claims. How long can “reformers” get by on propaganda?



David Kirp, a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a smashing article in the New York Times comparing the failure of corporate reform in Newark and the success of incremental, collaborative reform in Union City, New Jersey.


Newark is a paradigm of all the bad reform ideas: Schools closed against the will of parents and students. Charter schools opened, some of which skimmed the students they wanted. Mark Zuckerberg, egged on by then-Mayor Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie, put $100 million into the reformer dream that every student in Newark would achieve proficiency if every school were turned into a charter school. Zuckerberg’s $100 million disappeared down the rabbit hole, and Newark continues to struggle.



Meanwhile, Union City made real progress, without the help of Zuckerberg’s millions.





Kirp writes:


No one expected a national model out of Union City. Without the resources given to Newark, the school district there, led by a middle-level bureaucrat named Fred Carrigg, was confronted with two huge challenges: How could English learners, three-quarters of the students, become fluent in English? And how could youngsters, many of whom came from homes where books were rarities, be turned into adept readers?


Today Union City, which opted for homegrown gradualism, is regarded as a poster child for good urban education. Newark, despite huge infusions of money and outside talent, has struggled by comparison. In 2014, Union City’s graduation rate was 81 percent, exceeding the national average; Newark’s was 69 percent.


What explains this difference? The experience of Union City, as well as other districts, like Montgomery County, Md., and Long Beach, Calif., that have beaten the demographic odds, show that there’s no miracle cure for what ails public education. What business gurus label “continuous improvement,” and the rest of us call slow-and-steady, wins the race.



Two points to be made based on this article:


  1. Why does anyone expect politicians to know how to fix schools that struggle?
  2. Does anyone still believe that charters and vouchers and high-stakes testing will improve education for the nation’s poorest children?








New Jersey Democrat Theresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee, has a truly terrible idea. She wants to introduce “social impact bonds” that would pay off investors to reduce special education referrals. The assumption behind the bonds is that high-quality pre-K can reduce the need for special education.

A parent blogger was aghast and sees these bonds as an effort to end special education.

The blogger writes:

“What is Senator Ruiz attempting to achieve? Her statement, “we won’t have to have early-intervention programs and classification and wrap-around services because we did the work early on” is naive at best and potentially destructive at worst.

“High quality” Pre-K is not a magic bullet. Students with disabilities will not be magically cured by attending preschool. It sounds too good to be true because it is. New Jersey’s classification rate is about 14.5%, higher in low-income districts where this program will take place.

“Will preschool help decrease the percentage of students who need special education services in those districts? I have no doubt that it will. The research supports that presumption.

“Are you going to end the need for Early Intervention, classification, and wrap-around services? No. You aren’t. There will always be students who would have been classified no matter how much preschool they had. There will always be students who need wrap-around services because we, as country, much less as a state, are doing nothing to address the poverty that creates the need for these services.

“Big picture here is, Goldman Sachs is going to make money on students NOT being classified. RtI is going to become the framework for K-12, delaying as long as possible the identification and classification of students with disabilities. And the Special Education Ombudsman position the Senator is trying to create (because constituents have been begging for help) will work for the NJ Department of Education.”

A reader posted a comment about her own children.

“OMG! We won’t have to have early intervention because we have high quality PreK!

“I have three kids. One reg ed., one legally blind, one entered school as profoundly autistic.

“How, precisely, would the most awesome preK in the world have helped my one year old legally blind child? Who would have taught me to teach him?

“Would great preK have made my autistic kid neurally typical?

“Would NOT classifying them have led to educational success? Does Ruiz honestly believe that neither kid would need special ed if they got great preK?
$1700 a year would not have paid for OT!(and, strangely enough, legally blind kids have issues with hand eye coordination !)

“I am way to hot to write to her right now. I will gather my thoughts and write a letter.

“Thanks. I didn’t know Ruiz was so short sighted as to believe no child could possibly remain disabled when they had great preK.”

Ever wonder who is the supplying the money behind the privatization of public schools?

It is a long list, and it starts with the U.S. Department of Education. Every year since 1994, your taxpayer dollars have been used to open schools that drain resources from your public schools while selecting the students they want. If your state has charters, you can expect that they will lobby the legislature for more charters. They will close their schools, hire buses, and send students, teachers, and parents to the State Capitol, all dressed in matching T-shirts, to demand more charters. Since the children are already enrolled in a charter and can’t attend more than one, they are being used to advance the financial interests of charter chains, which want to expand.

The big foundations support the growth of the charter industry: the Walton Family Foundation has put more than $1 billion into charters and vouchers; the Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation also put millions into charters, often partnering with the Far-right Walton Foundation.

There is a long list of other foundations that fund the assault on public education, including the John Arnold Foundation (ex-Enron trader), the Dell Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, the Fisher Family Foundation (Gap and Old Navy), the Michael Bloomberg Foundation, and many more.

Here is a list of the funders of 50CAN, which started in Connecticut as ConnCAN, created by billionaires, corporate executives, and hedge fund managers, led by Jonathan Sackler, uber-rich Big Pharma.

Here is an example of a foundation that is very active in support of privatization. Check out where their money goes.

ALEC uses its clout with far-right legislators to promote charters and vouchers, as well as to negate local control over charters.

To see where the Walton Family Foundation spread over $202 million to advance privatization, look here.

The money trail is so large, that it is hard to know where to begin. Certain recipients do collect large sums with frequency, including KIPP, Teach for America, Education Trust, to name just a few.

As we say at the Network for Public Education, we are many, they are few. They have money, we have votes. Out ideas for children and education are sound, their ideas fail every time, everywhere.

David Rutherford is in his first year as a member the the school board in Plainfield, New Jersey. He dug into the budget and discovered that the state of Néw Jersey is cheating the children of Plainfield. Since the election of Chris Christie, the state has ignored a law requiring that it fund schools based on student needs. Plainfield has been shorted by millions of dollars. Rutherford estimates that Plainfield is owed $70 million by the state.

Guess who has not been shorted? Charter schools, which have the backing of several prominent hedge fund billionaires in Néw Jersey.

Charter schools have been sucking students and dollars out of the Plainfield public schools.

Until now, the fiscally responsible Plainfield district had been running a surplus. But it won’t last.

Rutherford writes:

“But surplus is a finite resource, and long term the picture is far more grim. The state of New Jersey’s refusal to pay districts the funds they deserve and the over-funding of charter schools will become growing problems for which this district, and many others, must find difficult long term solutions. Millions of dollars in lost money will undoubtably have a grave impact on students and the community.

“Applying the Pressure

“We must demand that Chris Christie and the New Jersey State Legislature cease to steal from the neediest public school districts while keeping charter schools afloat. Language that allows for charter over-payment must be removed from next year’s budget.

“The Highland Park and Paterson Boards of Education have already passed resolutions demanding that the Legislature take a stand and eliminate that language. In fact, you can read Highland Park’s resolution, which has been accepted in principle by the New Jersey School Boards Association and should be up for vote at the next School Board Delegate Assembly meeting on November 26th.

“Seven million dollars in over-payments on top of $70 million in underfunding over the course of the past six years is nothing short of theft, and the blame falls on a bipartisan coalition of our leaders in Trenton. This includes the two-thirds Democratic State Assembly and Senate. They must be held accountable.”


If policies like Néw Jersey’s stay in place, districts like Plainfield will go bankrupt, setting them up for privatization. There will be many others in the same situation. Good news for hedge fund managers who want to destroy public education. Bad news for kids, teachers, public education, and democracy.

The privatizers have been searching for the past decade for a “proof point” that privatization is the path to a great education that will lift all children out of poverty, thereby avoiding the necessity to raise taxes on the rich.

First, they focused on New Orleans, but despite their massive propaganda campaign, there are many doubts about the “success.” Even their own data report that at least 40% of charters are F-rated by a charter-friendly state department of education.

Then they tried Newark, buoyed by Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift (matched by others). That was a complete flop.

Then they started the “Achievement School District” in Tennessee, whose leader Chris Barbic promised to lift the schools in the bottom 5% to the top 25% in only five years. As of now, four years later, the first batch are still in the bottom 5%, except for two that reached the bottom 6%.

And now it is poor Camden, New Jersey’s turn. Camden, the poorest city in the Garden State, is the target for the elimination of public education. Camden is supposed to prove that charters can conquer poverty. No need to create jobs, build housing, make medical care available to all, or do anything else to improve the lives of the people of Camden.

Just yesterday, the privatizers held a conference on their plan of action. The State Education Commissioner was there. The Camden superintendent was there. The Democratic boss of South Jersey was there. The president of the State Senate was there. The minority leader of the State Senate was there. The executive director of KIPP in New Jersey was there. The head of the New Jersey Charter Association was there. Bob Bowdon, the pro-voucher filmmaker whose film “The Cartel” compared the NJEA to the Mafia, was there. Who was not there? Parents and educators from Camden.

Open these links (you don’t have to belong to Facebook to open them):

Don’t these bozos–forgive me, policymakers– ever learn anything? How many millions went down the drain in Newark?

Jersey Jazzman, aka Mark Weber, is an expert on Newark school reform. As a teacher, researcher, and blogger, he has reported and analtzed every twist and turn of the Newark story.

Who better, then, to fact check Dale Russakoff’s new book, “The Prize,” which tells the story of what happened to Mark Zuckerberg’s gift of $100 million to reform the schools of Newark. The gift came in response to a request by them-Mayor Cory Booker and newly-elected Governor Chris Christie.

It is a good read and an important review. I wish Russakoff had interviewed Mark Weber.


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