The fix is in to privatize the schools of Camden, New Jersey, reports Julia Sass Rubin. Rubin is an associate professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and a visiting associate professor of public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She also is one of the founding members of the grassroots, pro-public education group Save Our Schools NJ.

Read Rubin’s account of plans for a charter takeover of Camden, New Jersey, aided by Chris Christie, the local Democratic machine, and Camden’s young inexperienced superintendent.

The legislature rushed through and passed amendments to the state’s Urban Hope act, so as to bypass violations of the law by two charter chains and to enable them to expand in Camden. The chains–Mastery and Uncommon Schools–together with the pre-existing KIPP schools will together enroll a large majority of Camden’s students. The ultimate goal, shared by the Chris Christie administration and the Norcross political machine, is to make Camden a New Orleans-style district, where public education is a relic of the past, and most schools are privately managed. The few remaining public schools will exist for the students the charters don’t want: students with disabilities and students with low test scores.

“The negative fiscal impact of the renaissance charter program is already being felt on the Camden District’s public schools. Hundreds of teachers and staff members were fired this spring because of projected budget shortfalls caused by payments the district has to make to renaissance and regular charter schools. Over the next few years, Camden parents are likely to see many more public school teachers laid off and extensive school reorganizations and closings as the privately-managed renaissance charters open more and more schools, aggressively competing for the public school dollars.

“Camden parents already lament the constant harassment by those charter chains, whose representatives approach them at every venue, come to their homes, and even try to recruit their children on school playgrounds. One Camden father recounted to me that he had repeatedly told the paid renaissance charter recruiters who came to his house that he did not want to send his child to their charter school, only to have them return the next morning and resume their recruitment efforts.

“The charter chains also send marketing emails and letters to parents’ homes. Sometimes, this has been done with the assistance and endorsement of the state-appointed Camden District Superintendent, who has mailed the charter chains’ recruitment materials to parents along with District correspondence. But parents also report receiving personally-addressed mail sent directly by the charter chains. A Camden mother told me that she called the Mastery charter chain’s offices in Philadelphia after receiving such a personally-addressed recruitment letter from them and spoke with a woman who asked for her name and the names of her children and then found their address on a list in front of her. Based on such experiences, Camden parents are convinced that the Camden School District’s state-appointed superintendent is giving their children’s personal information to the charter chains in order to facilitate the chains’ enrollment growth.”

If Governor Christie has his way, public education will be destroyed in Camden.