Archives for category: New Jersey

Jersey Jazzman, aka public school teacher and Ph.D. candidate Mark Weber, wrote a blistering reproach to the charter school cheerleaders who have persuaded Governor Chris Christie that charters accomplish more with less. This enables Christie to propose an outrageously inequitable plan that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

He shows how certain loud charter zealots in New Jersey have argued that charters in Newark are way better than Newark public schools, despite the clear evidence that the charters enroll a different demographic and have high attrition rates.

He points out that when honest critics point out the verifiable facts, they can expect to be slimed and smeared by the charter cheerleaders, who glory in the privatization of public schools.

Weber reviews the shameless attacks by charter zealot Laura Waters and refutes her claims with data, evidence, not rhetoric.

He concludes:

I’ve spent more time answering Waters’ post than it deserves; however, I’m doing so this time for a reason. Chris Christie has proposed a radical change in school funding — one that even Peter Cunningham agrees is pernicious for this state’s neediest children. Yet how does Christie justify his plan? With stories of charter school “success.” And who has sold this tale?

Laura Waters, Peter Cunningham, and the well-heeled charter school operators themselves. In their zeal to pump up charters and shoot down honest critics like Julia Sass Rubin, these fine, reformy folks have set up the students who attend New Jersey’s urban, public, district schools for a huge cut in their schools’ budgets.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t ever pretend that I don’t have a point of view. I’m a New Jersey public school teacher and I am damn tired of being blamed for things completely out of my and my colleagues’ control. I think the celebration of charter school “success” is largely a pretext for beating up teachers unions, gutting teacher workplace protections, and cutting back even further on public school funding, particularly in urban districts. I think charter cheerleading keeps us from having a real conversation about the structural problems related to race and economic inequality in America.

But now we’re seeing the consequences of unbridled charter love are even more dangerous than mere charter expansion. Charlatans like Christie are using the very arguments charter cheerleaders spout daily to make the case that we can simply turn our backs on urban schools and their students. So long as a few charter schools get better than average test scores — by whatever means necessary — it’s perfectly fine to cut the budgets of urban district schools.

This awful rhetoric can be laid directly at the feet of the charter industry and their willing saps in the media — and that includes the professional reformy propaganda machine that exists solely to counter informed critics like me or Bruce Baker or Julia Sass Rubin.

I won’t speak for Bruce [Baker] or Julia, but I’m pretty sure they’d agree with me when I say this: I am not against school choice or charter schools per se. I started my K-12 career in a charter school. I think there are worthwhile reasons for having charters and other forms of alternative schools. I have been teaching long enough to know not every kid is going to fit well in her neighborhood school, and that there are good reasons to offer other choices. I think there are charters that have practices that may well be worth studying.

So folks like me and Bruce and Julia may have a point of view our opinions, but we aren’t questioning charter cheerleading simply as a reflex; our criticisms are reasonable and informed by the evidence. Do you disagree? Fine, I’m happy to debate.

But understand: your ill-informed, statistically-inept charter cheerleading is no longer simply about justifying your own school; it’s now being used to excuse a wholesale defunding of our urban public schools.

Do you really want that on your hands?

Politico published a fascinating analysis of Cory Booker’s slippery career as Mayor of Newark.

We previously learned in Dale Russakoff’s book “The Prize” about Booker’s rock-star status among the powerful New York City elites and his less than stellar performance as Mayor of Newark. Booker is a hero to Democrats for Education Reform, the group that always bets against public schools.

In this article, Amy S. Rosenberg digs into the myth of Cory Booker, his careful polishing of his image and his efforts to cement his ties to the rich and powerful, while keeping his eyes on the opportunity to move up and out of Newark. Rosenberg does not assess Booker’s big project of turning Newark into a national model of school reform, which was his single biggest failure.

What did he actually accomplish? Is Newark better off today because of Booker?

One thing we know for sure is that Cory Booker is tied at the hip to those who want to get rid of public education. He is close to Chris Christie and helped the governor run the public schools of Newark into to the ground, while persuading Mark Zuckerberg to fork over $100 million to turn Newark into a city of charters. We know how that worked out.

Booker became a darling of Manhattan neoconservatives because he supported both charters and vouchers.

It worked for Booker. It didn’t work for the children of Newark.

Now Booker is angling to become Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential choice.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it never happens.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey unveiled a new funding plan, which he claims is “fair.” The essence of his plan that all children in the state would get exactly the same dollar amount–$6,599–, and that is fair! So, whether you are a child in a wealthy district or a child in an impoverished district, you will get the same! Isn’t that fair? Well, not really. That’s like saying the rich and the poor are equally permitted to sleep under bridges.

Julia Sass Rubin of Rutgers University explains why Chris Christie’s plan is a hoax and a swindle. It is not just because giving exactly the same amount to children in rich and poor districts is divisive and harms those with the greatest needs, but because so much of the budget is already earmarked that there is not enough to divvy up fairly.

Although numerous commentators pointed out the devastating impact that Christie’s proposal would have on children who live in communities with high rates of poverty, none actually verified the governor’s claim that dividing state aid equally among all New Jersey students would result in $6,599 per pupil funding.

Had they done so, they would have found that the $6,599 per pupil figure, and the promises of property tax reductions predicated on it, are both false.

There simply is not a $9.1 billion state education budget available to distribute across New Jersey while also protecting special education funding and charter schools.

State special education funding alone accounts for almost a billion dollars. And state funding pays for less than a third of all special education expenses. So if the governor distributed state aid evenly, he would eliminate the ability of many districts to provide special education services as their local tax base is inadequate to fund the additional costs.

Then there’s the state funding Christie would need to set aside to protect charter schools. In 2015-16, charter schools received in excess of $600 million in funding, primarily in the form of state aid pass-throughs from high poverty districts. And charter school funding is growing rapidly as the Christie administration increases the number of charter school students.

The governor’s numbers also ignore other programs he is unlikely to cut, such as pre-school funding and choice aid.

Eliminating state pre-school funding would remove another $656 million from the funds Christie could distribute to all districts. Cutting the funding would not only be bad public policy, it also would jeopardize federal preschool funds New Jersey currently receives.

The $54 million in choice aid funds the popular Interdistrict Public School Choice program that the governor supports and that benefits many small, rural districts.

There are many other examples.

When all is factored in, the actual amount that the governor’s plan would distribute is approximately $4,800 per student, nearly $2,000 less than he promised in his speech….

For example, Union City, which Christie lauded for producing “extraordinary growth under very trying circumstances,” would see its state and local funding drop from approximately $16,400 to $6,100 per student, a funding level below that of Mississippi.

This brief provides a first look at the “Fairness Formula,” Chris Christie’s school tax reform plan. In this analysis, we show:

The “Fairness Formula” will greatly reward the most-affluent districts, which are already paying the lowest school tax rates as measured by percentage of income.
The “Fairness Formula” will force the least-affluent districts to slash their school budgets, severely increase local property taxes, or both.
The premise of the “Fairness Formula” – that the schools enrolling New Jersey’s at-risk students have “failed” during the period of substantial school reform – is contradicted by a large body of evidence.

Jersey Jazzman noticed that Governor Chris Christie has been visiting Gulen charter schools. Governor Christie once represented Edison Schools, so there is no question that he likes privatization as a “solution” to the ills of urban education.

If you want to get the lowdown on Gulen charter schools, read Sharon Higgins or see Mark Hall’s film “Killing Ed.” (See here).

JJ finds it odd that Christie has an affinity for Gulen charter schools.

JJ writes:

There are times when I am astonished that the press doesn’t pick up on a particular story. For example: according to activists on Facebook, Chris Christie is having a private meeting tomorrow, June 30, 2016, at Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology.

If this is the case, it will be the third time since this spring that Chris Christie has visited a charter school linked to the controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish expatriate living in seclusion in the United States.

On May 16, Christie visited Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School in Franklin. Two days later, he trekked to Bergen Arts & Sciences Charter School in Hackensack. Thomas Edison, Bergen A&S, and Paterson Science & Tech have all been linked by the Gulen Charter Schools website to the Gulenist movement in the US.

As I’ve written previously, the proliferation of Gulenist charter schools is not some wild-eyed conspiracy theory: it’s been reported on by CBS News, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Wall St. Journal. These schools, all linked to Gulen’s movement, have been popping up all over the country and are the subject of concerns expressed by the federal State Department due to their use of H1B visas to admit Turkish nationals into the US.

Given how closely tied Christie is to Donald Trump — who wants a ban on Muslims entering the country (although even he doesn’t seem to understand his own plan) — I can’t understand why no one in the state press has pursued this story. Why is Christie praising so many Gulen-linked charters? Why is he visiting so many of them?

Governor Chris Christie made a budget proposal for “fair funding” that attempts to pit middle-class taxpayers against the poor.

He proposes to give the same amount of school aid to every child in the schools, whether they are in an affluent or a poor district. He is selling this as property tax relief for the middle class, who will get a boost, but will result in cuts to poor kids in poor districts.

Russ Walsh calls this “punching poor children in the face,” as Chris Christie once said he would like to do to the teachers’ unions. Walsh writes:

He proposes a flat rate of aid in the area of $6,599 for every student in New Jersey whether they live in leafy, affluent Montgomery Township or cash strapped, property tax poor Camden. This “every one gets the same money plan” would provide a windfall to wealthy districts, many of which would see a dramatic increase in state aid to schools (and a reduction in property taxes) and conversely a death sentence to urban districts who would see their budgets reduced by tens of millions of dollars.

Daniel Katz says that Christie is pulling a reverse Robin Hood, stealing from the poor to give to the rich. He says, “A good way to approach almost any education proposal from Chris Christie is to simply assume that it will cause far more harm than good and then try to gauge just how far along the harmful spectrum it will actually be.”

Mark Weber (aka Jersey Jazzman) says that Christie’s plan is so absurd that it makes building a wall on the Mexican border look reasonable by comparison.

Even Christie’s friends at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the hedge fund pro-charter group, cried foul.

“Fair funding” is one of those far-right ideas intended to pave the way for vouchers, a backpack full of cash, and strapping the money to the kids’ back. It is intended to generate support among middle-class and affluent people who object to high property taxes. Call it class warfare. Whatever it is, it is not fair to the kids with the greatest needs.

This post is not directly connected to education, but it says something about the connection between politics and high finance and the selling off of public assets. Think education.


This comes from the website of “In the Public Interest,” an anti-privatization organization.


New Jersey: The plan by Gov. Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross III to sell off Atlantic City’s public assets and bust union contracts advances to the next step. “Assembly sources pointed to Atlantic City’s beachfront property as the real prize. Joseph Jignoli and Jack Morris, two politically connected developers with ties to Sweeney by way of public-private developer Devco’s work in Cherry Hill and New Brunswick, could be first in line as plots of land on the coast fall into the state’s hands.”


“Sweeney has repeatedly insisted that he favors monetizing the city’s water by handing the authority over to Atlantic County to cut costs. Phillip Norcross, another brother of George Norcross, is a lobbyist with New Jersey American Water, the company most likely to purchase the authority under a state takeover.”

This post appeared on EduShyster’s blog. It was written by the grandmother of a student enrolled in the North Star Charter School in Newark, New Jersey.


The child’s mother decided that the child should not take the state tests. That’s when the trouble began.


Her mother read about PARCC testing and decided that she didn’t want to put the child through that. She gets anxious over tests and she has nightmares after testing. From everything we’ve been following about PARCC in the news reports, these tests aren’t well designed, they don’t indicate much about the children’s progress and they’re being used to rate and assess the teachers and the schools. These tests also aren’t mandatory. Our question has always been: *What’s the benefit for the child?* We didn’t see any. She’s on her fourth school in three years and was just settling down and starting to get her grades together, and we’re not going to disrupt that for a week of testing that serves no clear purpose.


Our question has always been: *What’s the benefit for the child?* We didn’t see any.


At the end of February, her mother sent a letter to North Star letting them know that she was opting not to have the child take the test. That started such harassment! North Star would call and call and call. Sometimes they would call two and three times a day. They wanted us to change our minds about the child taking the PARCC test. They would tell us that she’s going to have to take standardized tests in high school and taking the test now would help her learn how to take these tests. They also argued that by not taking the test the child was letting down the North Star community, and that this was part of the responsibility to the school community that her mother agreed to when she signed the papers….


Testing starts on April 25th. I’m concerned about what North Star is going to do to my granddaughter during that week. I contacted Save Our Schools New Jersey because I wanted to know what happens if we keep my granddaughter out of school. The state says that the school can’t just make the kids sit and stare during the tests. Her brother is at a school for kids with special needs and the school is making all kinds of accommodations for kids who won’t be taking the tests. I also contacted the Charter Schools Association in Trenton and talked to someone who said she’d contact the school and find out what their plans are for kids who aren’t taking the test. When I heard back, I was told that there is no opt out.


I don’t trust the school. I have a feeling that if my granddaughter goes to school, they’ll either have her doing nothing or they’ll really push on her. At first our plan was to accompany her to school, to take turns just to keep an eye on things, but her mother has two other kids and I work nights. So we decided to keep her out of school that week. I’ll take her to New York to the museums. If she sits home and plays on the computer that’s OK by me too, as long as she’s not at school being pressured.


The child has taken up the cause. At first she was just relieved not to have to take the test. Now she’s in the fight with us. She’s all activist-minded at this point. When we asked her how she felt about telling her story to the newspaper, she said: “Absolutely. What if there are other kids who are being pushed around and being bullied like this and their parents don’t know how to stand up for them?”

Glitches fixed, PARCC testing in New Jersey resumes.

The best antidote to this travesty is to refuse to take the test. Teachers should write their own tests to test what they taught.

PARCC testing across the state of New Jersey was canceled due to a computer glitch. The state education commissioner said he was not responsible for the problem. He blamed it for Pearson. Actually, he is responsible for the problem. He made the decision to stick with PARCC, even those most of the original 24 states who signed on have abandoned PARCC. At last count, only six states and D.C. still use PARCC. Shame on the commissioner for ducking responsibility for a massive fail! Who will hold him accountable? How much instructional time will be wasted giving the tests twice?



New Jersey schools were forced to postpone PARCC testing in grades 3 through 11 Wednesday morning because of a technical error that prevented students from logging on to the computerized exams, state Education Commissioner David Hespe said.


The problem is with the testing platform provided by Pearson, the company that creates the exams, called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests, Hespe said.


Hespe called the technical error “totally unacceptable” but did not provide specific details of what went wrong.


“This is not a problem on our end,” Hespe said. “This is a problem on Pearson’s end.”




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