Archives for category: New Jersey

EduShyster asks the curious but important question: What happens when parents are told that they must have school choice, whether they want it or not? What happens if they want a neighborhood public school but authorities tell them they are not allowed to have that choice? What if the elites decide that other people’s children must choose a “no excuses” charter school even if they don’t choose it?

Read the sad story of Camden, Néw Jersey, where parents hit school choice without wanting it.

Writes EduShyster:

“If choice is the only choice is it still choice?

“Today we turn to one of the most baffling conundrums of these fiercely urgent days. If school choice is indeed the civil rights issue of our time, why do its chosen beneficiaries so rarely get to exercise any choice about choosing it? Alas reader, we are left with no choice. To the choice mobile, and make it snappy! We’re headed to Camden, New Jersey, where school choice is on its way, whether people there choose to choose it or not.”

Jersey Jazzman is not only a music teacher; he has been earning his doctorate in statistics at Rutgers University. In this post, he uses his knowledge of classroom and statistics to try to educate the chief editorial writer for the Star-Ledger, Tom Moran, about the difference between the public schools of Hoboken, New Jersey, and the charter school of Hoboken, New Jersey. As you can see from JJ’s graphs, they enroll different children. Moran effusively praises a dual-language charter (which does not have a single student who is an English language learner, has more white students, and fewer impoverished students).

 

 

Jersey Jazzman patiently walks through the data, and in doing so, provides a valuable lesson in why some charters get better results than public schools. Call it canny, call it gaming the system. It always works.

Egged on by Governor Chris Christie, the privatization movement has targeted Camden, Néw Jersey.

 

PARENT ADVOCATES CALL ON LEGISLATURE TO HALT UNPRECEDENTED EXPANSION OF UNACCOUNTABLE CHARTER CHAINS IN CAMDEN

 

 

NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney is poised to pass S2264, legislation that amends the 2013 Urban Hope Act in order to accommodate illegally approved renaissance charter schools in Camden. Senator Sweeney is bringing this legislation to a full Senate vote on Monday, September 22, without first introducing it in committee. This legislation was already snuck through the Legislature once in late June.

“The handwriting is on the wall,” said Susan Cauldwell, Executive Director of Save Our Schools NJ Community Organizing.

“If the legislature allows this undemocratic transfer of Camden public education to private control, district schools will be forced to close, and the education of Camden schoolchildren and the oversight of hundreds of millions of our tax dollars will be in the hands of entities that are unaccountable to New Jersey families and taxpayers.”

“The people of New Jersey deserve more transparency and accountability from their elected officials, especially when our children’s futures are at stake,” Ms. Cauldwell added.

Last spring, Commissioner of Education David Hespe approved renaissance school proposals submitted by out-of-state charter chains, Mastery and Uncommon, knowing they did not comply with the current Urban Hope Act law.

Save Our Schools NJ objected to the illegal Mastery and Uncommon approvals in three letters to the Commissioner. In what appears to be an acknowledgment of the validity of these objections, a bill amending the Urban Hope Act to allow some of Mastery and Uncommon’s illegal activity, was quickly passed through the Legislature in late June. That bill was vetoed by the Governor.

In August, after Senator Sweeney indicated that he would support a reintroduction of this legislation, Save Our Schools NJ and the Education Law Center sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto calling on him to reject the new UHA legislation. The two organizations recently sent the same letter to all State Legislators (please see below).

“The Camden school district currently turns over $72 million, or 26% of its budget, to charters, because of the new KIPP, Mastery and Uncommon schools that have opened this year. That number will continue to grow,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “We urge Legislators to oppose any expansion of the Urban Hope Act. The purpose of the act was to encourage construction of new school buildings in Camden, not to privatize public education in the district.”

LETTER TO LEGISLATORS

Dear Senator,

We urge you to vote no on Senate Bill 2264, scheduled for a full Senate vote on Monday, September 22!

This legislation extends by one year the Urban Hope program, which allows up to four private, non-profit organizations to open and operate multiple schools in Camden. This legislation also allows these organizations to open schools in temporary facilities, expanding the Urban Hope Act far beyond its intended scope of authorizing only “newly constructed” renaissance school projects.

We strongly oppose this bill because it expedites and further facilitates an unprecedented and unaccountable transfer of public education in Camden from public to private control, under the Urban Hope Act.

Governor Chris Christie’s administration has approved, behind closed doors, three renaissance projects for out-of-state charter chains over the last year. These approvals have set in motion dramatic changes that will result in the hyper-segregation of Camden students; the closing of many of Camden’s district and “homegrown” charter schools; and a near complete absence of accountability for hundreds of millions of New Jersey tax dollars.

1) Transfer of Public Education to Out-Of-State Private Charter Chains

In early July, the Commissioner of Education approved applications for renaissance schools from the Mastery and Uncommon charter chains. Mastery is based in Philadelphia, and Uncommon in New York. The Commissioner authorized these chains to open 11 schools serving 6,194 Camden students. In 2013, the former Commissioner authorized the KIPP charter chain, also based in New York, to open 5 schools serving 2,300 students.

Thus, under the Urban Hope Act, the Christie Administration has given the green light to three charter chains – KIPP, Master and Uncommon – to open 16 schools serving 9,214 Camden students over the next several years. This constitutes 62% of the approximately 15,000 students that attended Camden’s 26 district-operated neighborhood and magnet schools and 13 “locally-grown” charter schools during the 2013-14 academic year.

2) Hyper-Segregation of the Camden Student Population

These charter chains have a poor track record of serving very low-income students, English language learners, students with disabilities, and students at-risk of failure and with other special needs. As a result, the district would be left to educate, with a severely diminished budget, the most academically challenged students, whom the charters chains are either unwilling or unable to serve.

3) Closing of Camden’s District and Charter Schools

As Mastery, KIPP and Uncommon open schools and increase enrollment, the State-operated district will close many, if not most, of the 26 schools currently in operation. The State in recent months closed two charter schools. It is likely that more of these “homegrown” charters also will be closed.

4) Absence of Fiscal and Educational Accountability

The system created by the Urban Hope Act is shockingly lacking in accountability. It relegates the State-operated Camden district solely to the task of transferring enormous amounts of school funding to Mastery, KIPP and Uncommon Schools. In fact, the district’s 2014-15 budget already shows a nearly 30% projected increase in payments to charter schools, from $55.5 million to $72 million, as a result of the opening of the first KIPP, Mastery and Uncommon schools. This amount equals approximately 26% of the Camden district’s FY15 budget and will only increase in the coming years.

Aside from a cursory review by the Commissioner of Education every two years, the renaissance chains also are exempt from the State accountability and oversight requirements applicable to district and charter schools. Instead, responsibility for the education of Camden’s children and the effective and efficient use of hundreds of millions in New Jersey tax dollars would shift to the boards of trustees of the private charter chains. The Urban Hope legislation does not indicate how these organizations would be held accountable for providing a “thorough and efficient” education not just for some, but for the majority of Camden’s schoolchildren.

The Urban Hope Act has been used in Camden to serve a purpose far beyond its intent of creating four newly constructed school projects. Rather, it has been used to remake public education, shifting governance and control over the city’s schools to private organizations based outside New Jersey. This has occurred with almost no information about the specifics of the State’s plans, no meaningful opportunity for parent and community input, and no assurance of accountability going forward.

For these reasons, we oppose any further expansion or extension of the Urban Hope Act. We also urge the Joint Committee on the Public Schools to conduct investigative hearings into the Commissioners’ decisions allowing the Mastery, Uncommon and KIPP chains to, in effect, take over public education in Camden and to determine if any steps can now be taken to address the impact of these decisions on students and schools in the State-operated district.

Sincerely,

David Sciarra
Executive Director
Education Law Center

Susan Cauldwell
Executive Director
Save Our Schools
NJ Community Organizing

Jersey Jazzman says Governor Christie has complete control of education in four urban districts in his state, and his appointees have haughtily introduced changes without community consultation or consent, sowing chaos and dissension, and protests by students and parents.

In Newark, as much as half of the students are boycotting Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” reorganization.

In Camden, the district is run by a man who has no experience running a district or even a school.

He concludes:

“State control didn’t start with Chris Christie, and there were plenty of administrative problems in New Jersey urban districts long before he came to power. But there’s little doubt things have degenerated under his failed leadership of our city school districts.

“Transportation, staffing, employee morale — these are among the primary concerns of a school district leader. You simply can’t run a school system unless you address these basic issues, and you can’t expect lightly qualified and lightly experienced superintendents — like Anderson and Rouhanifard — to know how to address the complexities of providing these needs when they both seem hellbent on deconstructing their districts in favor of a “portfolio” model of charter school expansion.

“Jersey City’s Lyles and Paterson’s Donnie Evans are another matter. I would never say either was inexperienced: Evans has a very solid resume, and as I’ve said before, Lyles, even though she is a Broadie and served in Joel Klein’s NYCDOE, has been a career educator and knows first-hand how schools are run. That said: if experience is almost always a prerequisite for success, it is never a guarantee. It’s certain that all of these jobs come with the proviso that the superintendent must adhere to the Christie school program: slashed budgets, merit pay, gutting tenure, test-based evaluations, and charter school proliferation.

“Even if these superintendents are capable and working in good faith, they are constrained by Christie’s ideologies. There is ultimately only one man responsible for the failures of governance in New Jersey’s state-run school districts: Chris Christie. Whatever problems may arise from returning Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, and Camden to local control, they couldn’t possibly be worse than continuing to suffer under Christie’s incompetence.”

- See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/09/under-govchristie-state-control-of.html#sthash.1fexVWKh.dpuf

Bob Braun, veteran education reporter, says that Barringer High School is in chaos, due to poor planning by the district leadership, i.e., Cami Anderson.

 

The school, intended to hold 600 students, has been divided into two schools, each with 700 students.

 

The principal of one school was fired by Anderson, and the principal of the other quit before school started.

 

He writes:

 

“Barringer High School in Newark was in chaos today after scores of students and parents marched out of the North Ward school–the oldest high school in Newark–to protest teacherless classrooms, foodless lunch hours, and class sizes reaching into the sixties….Wilhelmina Holder, a parent leader who is head of the Secondary School Coalition, said Barringer has been in a state of “chaos” since school opened Sept. 4. Many students sent there under Anderson’s “One Newark” plan either have no schedules at all or temporary schedules that are changed every few days.”

 

 

 

 

Bob Braun has been writing about the abusiveness and insensitivity of Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” plan. He has written that it has disrupted the lives of children and families, with no goal other than to sweep away neighborhood schools and impose charter schools. Newark has been under state control for nearly 20 years. In short, the people of Newark have had no say in the governance of their city’s schools, and now Chris Christie and Cami Anderson have decided to turn them over to private management.

Braun reports that the real heroes in this struggle for democracy are the high school students of Newark. While most of the adults seemed resigned and ready to bow to authority, the high school students went into the streets to protest. A group of them chained themselves together, sat down in the city’s main thoroughfare, and blocked traffic. The newly elected Mayor Ras Baraka tried to protect the students. He ran for office as an opponent of Cami and “One Newark,” but he has no power to stop her.

Braun wrote:

“Newark’s public schools will be saved from privatization only if supporters are willing to take risks. Yesterday, Newark finally saw some risk takers–the high school students and handful of adults who blocked Broad Street for eight hours, refusing in a very adult way to give up their lines despite an effort by police to plow through, and a mayor who risked criticism for not arresting the students.

“The children are doing what the adults are not doing because the adults are too scared to do it,” said Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson about the siege of board headquarters at 2 Cedar Street organized by the Newark Students Union. The school board member spent most of the day monitoring the protest.

“But did it make a difference? Will the risks taken by the students and Mayor Ras Baraka–the courageous actions taken yesterday by both –hasten the end of Anderson’s tenure? Will it quickly end the “One Newark” plan that has brought so much pain to so many city families?

“Maybe not. But this is what they will do: They will keep the fight alive, keep the light shining, in the face of the inertial forces that would try to gloss over the pain Anderson is causing and bring on a complacent, apathetic business-as-usual attitude that will allow Anderson to continue her plans unimpeded. Without the students, Anderson would be free to act without, not just restraint, but even without notice.”

Braun wrote:

“They’re coming for you.

“They’re coming for you in Wisconsin. In California. In New York–and, yes, in New Jersey. In places like Newark and Paterson–ask Paterson teachers about the great contract they “won” from the state-operated district. And. remember, the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the people who almost made Shavar Jeffries mayor, believe tenure and other protections are the dam that “must be burst” to reform education.

“Think about it. Those are Democrats. They might eat your rights elegantly with some fava beans and a little Malbec–but they will do it every bit as effectively as the Koch Brothers who would just as soon have public employee union leaders jailed and shot.”

The kids were heroes. It is a very small gesture on my part to add them to the honor roll as heroes of American education. They are standing up for public education. They are standing up for democracy.

Paul Tractenberg, a distinguished law professor at Rutgers University, challenges the idea that all-charter districts based on the New Orleans model are a magic bullet for Newark, Camden, and other low-performing districts in New Jersey. He notes that for the past four years, we have been bombarded with propaganda films like “Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down,” intended to convince us of the superiority of privatized charter schools over traditional public schools.

But, Tractenberg notes, the evidence is missing. Contrary to media hype, the Recovery School District in New Orleans is one of the lowest-performing districts in the state. No miracle there.

He asks questions that the propagandists for an all-charter district can’t answer:

“Do we really believe that the education of our most vulnerable students will be enhanced by constant churning of their schools and teachers? Do we really believe that we will improve education by replacing experienced and credentialed teachers with bright young college graduates — B.A. generalists as we used to call them in the early days of the Peace Corps — who are trained for six weeks before they are placed in the nation’s most difficult classrooms for their two-year commitments? Do we really believe that, despite growing evidence to the contrary, charter schools will begin to fully serve the needs of special education and LEP students? Do we really believe that balkanizing our already undersized New Jersey school districts to the charter-school level, where each charter school is technically an independent school district, will satisfy our state constitutional mandate of an “efficient system of free public schools”?

I have just finished reading Kristen Buras’ book about New Orleans. I will review it soon on the blog. It is the counter narrative to the reformer boosterism about New Orleans, “Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space.” It tells the story of the past decade from the perspective of black students, parents, teachers, and communities. It is a story of dispossession, of white supremacy, of community destruction. The publisher put a crazy price on the book, but I hear there will soon be a reasonably priced softcover. Buras shows that the destruction of public education in New Orleans is no model for other cities.

This post by Jersey Jazzman is part of a dialogue about Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” plan to close public schools and open charter schools in their place, without consulting with the school board or the community. Mark Weber, aka Jersey Jazzman, asks, whether the plan is racist? Does it have a disparate impact on black students and black teachers? Jersey Jazzman says yes.

Tom Moran, chief editorial writer for the Star-Ledger of New Jersey, responds here to the open letter written by three New Jersey bloggers, posted on their sites, and at blue jersey.com.

Here is Jersey Jazzman’s reply to Moran.

Moran was offended by the tone of the bloggers’ letter to him. The bloggers are offended by Cami Anderson’s One Newark” plan, which seeks to charterize large numbers of Newark’s public schools without consulting the Newark community.

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.

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