Gov. Christie and Legislature Fail to Fund School Formula, Create Crisis for Newark’s Schools

The Prize—Dale Russakoff’s book about the plan put in place by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and then Newark Mayor Cory Booker to charterize Newark’s schools and recruit Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to pay for it—is listed by the NY Times as one of the top 100 books of the year.  It is a fascinating tale of political intrigue and the imposition of the ideology of “school disruption” on the public schools in a very poor community. In September, this blog covered The Prize here and here.

Russakoff’s book isn’t, however, as strong on the gritty fiscal realities for the Newark Public Schools, though the book does demonstrate many of the ways Christie’s overseer superintendent, Cami Anderson, squandered a lot of Zuckerberg’s money, nearly a quarter of it on expensive consultants. Right after Thanksgiving,  the Education Law Center released a report that clarifies the financial realities for the Newark School District that are harder to patch together from Russakoff’s book.

Mark Zuckerberg’s one-time gift of $100 million to underwrite the Christie-Booker charter school experiment pales compared to what the Education Law Center’s new report explains is a $132 million shortfall in state funding for the current school year due to Governor Chris Christie’s refusal to fund the state’s court-ordered school finance plan: “Newark last received the increases required by New Jersey’s school funding formula—the School Funding Reform Act… in 2011-12, when the State Supreme Court ordered Governor Christie to restore the $42 million cut from Newark’s budget in 2010.  Since then, the Governor has refused to fund the formula, resulting in an over $132 million shortfall in state aid to Newark Public Schools in 2015-2016.”

Complicating Newark Public Schools’ problems has been the rapid expansion of charter schools, the centerpiece of the Christie-Booker-Zuckerberg One Newark plan implemented by Cami Anderson.  The Education Law Center explains: “Under New Jersey’s charter law, Newark charter schools receive funding through payments from the Newark Public Schools budget.  Charters are funded on a per pupil basis and are entitled to 90% of the sum of the district’s local levy and State equalization aid…. Charters receive additional aid for enrollment growth even when the district’s overall funding does not increase…. Payments to charter schools have first priority in district spending—they cannot be reduced to address shortfalls in the district budget.”

The report continues with details about benefits for charter schools: “As noted above, Newark Public Schools has not received any increase in state aid since 2011-12… However, Newark Public Schools payments to charter schools have increased rapidly as the (state) Department of Education has allowed charter enrollment to expand each year.  In 2008-09, Newark Public Schools payments to charter schools totaled $60 million.  By 2015-16, Newark Public Schools charter school payments increased to $225 million, representing 27% of the Newark Public Schools operating budget.”

Meanwhile as charter schools have attracted students away from Newark Public Schools, the concentration of students with special education needs and of English language learners has grown in the public schools.  The percentage of special education students has increased from 14% to 17% since 2008-09, and the percentage of English language learners has grown during the same period from 9% to 11%.  These are students who cost more to educate.

What does all this mean for the average student in Newark’s public schools?  “Total spending dropped by 20% between 2008-09 and 2014-15, a $2,971 per pupil reduction.  Spending on regular instruction—teachers, curriculum, books, etc.—was cut 35% or $1,610 per pupil.  Support services were significantly reduced (-20%), with especially large cuts in media services/library, attendance and social work, and guidance. Spending for students with disabilities and those learning English was dramatically reduced… Newark Public Schools spending per pupil has declined rapidly relative to other districts in the state. In 2008-09 only 35% of districts spent more per pupil than Newark Public Schools.  By 2014-15, 87% of districts were outspending Newark Public Schools.”

When the Zuckerberg-funded plan was implemented in 2012, Newark Public Schools abandoned another school reform initiative that many people believed was showing great promise. Newark’s mayor Ras Baraka, then the principal of Central High School, recently described in a piece he wrote for the Hechinger Report the Newark Global Village School Zone. Baraka explains: “Global Village was a reform strategy based upon an expanded conception of education that addresses the importance of academic skills and knowledge, as well as the development of the whole child.  The Village brought social service agencies, community based organizations, business, universities, and families together to build partnerships that supported the instructional and educational goals of schools in the Global Village network.  Quitman Street School and Central High School, where I was principal, along with five other schools in Newark’s Central Ward, collaborated with New York University to develop the Global Village strategy from 2009 until the (Christie-Booker-Zuckerberg) Renew strategy was implemented in 2012. Community partnerships, school-based professional development and collaboration, academic enrichment, extended learning time, and integration of student supports were core to our improvement plans.”

Community Schools bring medical and social services right into the school to work with the families and the children.  Baraka seeks to return to the model in place before the grand disruption paid for by Zuckerberg and implemented by Cami Anderson: “A city-wide Community Schools strategy is vital to ensuring our schools develop the capacity needed to help every child…. We declare that Newark is Ground Zero for Community Schools. We must recover from our losses, and build upon our successes….”

The Foundation for Newark’s Future, the philanthropy created in Newark to distribute Zuckerberg’s gift and the matching funds it attracted, is now almost out of money. The Associated Press recently reported, that to accomplish Baraka’s vision, “The Foundation for Newark’s Future will invest $1.2 million now and up to $12.5 million total on two initiatives…. The money to launch the South Ward Community Schools Initiative and Newark Opportunity Youth Network marks one of the final donations the foundation will make, five years after Zuckerberg committed the money.”

That what’s left of Zuckerberg’s money will be invested in Community Schools is a positive thing.  That Governor Christie and the legislature continue to cut state funding for Newark’s schools—despite that a court order mandates additional funds be distributed through the state’s funding formula—will, however, unquestionably leave Newark Public Schools short of needed money.

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Newark Schools Tragedy Surfaces and Is Quickly Suppressed at D.C. Luncheon

Lindsey Layton reports for the Washington Post that last week, Cami Anderson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s overseer school superintendent in Newark, was invited to Washington, D.C. to present a luncheon address at the far-right American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  When the folks at AEI discovered that many of those who had apparently properly registered and paid to be at the event were protesters bused from Newark, AEI immediately cancelled the public speech and moved Cami Anderson to a room upstairs to deliver a private address via video “for media only.”  Members of the audience were outraged.  “‘I feel ostracized!’ screamed Tanaisa Brown, a 16-year-old high school junior, as the lights in the room were turned off and the crowd was asked to leave.  In the dark, several kept chanting ‘Stop One Newark!’ while one repeatedly blew a whistle.”

You can check out this blog’s coverage of the recent tragic imposition on the citizens of Newark of the “One Newark” school choice plan here and here.  Newark has been under state control for twenty years, and while there is an elected school board, its members have neither the power to choose the school superintendent nor to set school policy.  Governor Chris Christie is notorious for his statement, “And I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark—not them.”

Layton reports the event last week at AEI as news.  On his blog, Rick Hess, who directs education policy for AEI, tries to explain away the embarassing afternoon.  He writes that he had indirectly criticized some of Anderson’s policies and he wanted to give his old friend a chance to tell her side of the story: “I was indirectly critical of some of what Newark has been doing.  Anderson, a friend who has been superintendent of New Jersey’s largest school system since 2011, argued that my depiction of Newark was unfair and inaccurate… So I invited her to come down to AEI, offer her perspective and some of the results from Newark, and talk about the lessons being learned.”  Hess and AEI have been scathingly criticized for their treatment of Newark’s citizens who felt compelled to travel all the way to the nation’s capital to find a way to speak directly to their school superintendent.  She has been unwilling even to attend public school board meetings since last January.  Bob Braun, former Newark Star-Ledger reporter, now blogger, is outraged.

Perhaps most moving is the analysis of Mark Weber, a New Jersey public school music teacher and Ph.D. candidate in policy and school finance at Rutgers, who blogs as Jersey Jazzman.  He writes, “Repeatedly, Anderson contends that her critics are quite small in number and that there are many more people who support her and One Newark than reality might suggest.  Let’s take a moment, then to review who is in this ‘small group’ that doesn’t support Anderson or her ‘reforms’:

  • Mayor Ras Baraka, who was elected in a race that became largely a referendum on Anderson.
  • His opponent, Shavar Jeffries, who lost because, even though he criticized Anderson, he didn’t go as far as Baraka by calling for her removal.
  • The Newark City Council, which called for a moratorium on all of Anderson’s initiatives.
  • The Newark School Board, which, though powerless to remove her… voted “no confidence” in Anderson’s leadership and has tried to freeze her pay.
  • The students of Newark’s schools, who have walked out repeatedly to protest her actions.
  • Parents who have filed a civil rights lawsuit, alleging One Newark is “de facto racial segregation.” (It is.)
  • The teachers union, which claims Anderson has repeatedly refused to follow through on the provisions of the contract she negotiated.
  • 77 of Newark’s religious leaders, who have said One Newark could be “catastrophic” and must not be implemented.” Weber quotes from the statement by the city’s religious leaders: There are many well-educated, reasonable minded, and rational individuals, parents, educators and citizens in general in the City of Newark. They all share an intense passion for excellence in education; they have come to feel that their input and voice have been repeatedly ignored. It is unfair to characterize Newarkers opposing the current approach to change as irrational and resistant to change in any case. Many voices of reason have been largely denied meaningful input into the decision-making process.

Describing discontent among citizens in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles, Weber contrasts democratic governance in those cities to the state’s imposition of Anderson’s school choice plan on Newark: “In all of these cases, the citizens of these school districts could use their vote to express their approval or disapproval of the current management of their schools.  But there’s no way any taxpayer in Newark can affect the continuing tenure of Cami Anderson through his or her vote.  The good people of Newark, NJ have no say in how their schools are run; is it any wonder, then, that they must raise their voices to be heard?  Newark has been under state control for two decades.  The voters of Newark roundly rejected Chris Christie twice, and yet he and he alone gets to decide who manages NPS (Newark Public Schools).  There is no plan in place to move the district back to democratic, local control; no one in the state has been held accountable for the failure to return the schools to the people of Newark.”

Gov. Christie — ” I don’t care about the community criticism…”; School Opens in Newark

School opened in Newark, New Jersey on Thursday, September 4, in the messy, patched together way that major transformations occur.  The question in this case, as Cami Anderson, the state’s appointed overseer superintendent imposed her controversial “One Newark” school choice plan on the school district, is why the confusion had to happen.  The citizens of Newark overwhelmingly elected a new mayor in the spring, Ras Baraka, a public school educator who ran on a platform of improving the public schools in Newark’s neighborhoods.  But Cami Anderson and Governor Chris Christie—who arrogantly said, “And I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark — not them.”—have persisted in their plans to close public schools and expand school choice.

As school began under “One Newark,” about 190 students were reported by WNYC News not to have been assigned a school yet and only 74 percent of students were reported to have found a place in one of their top five schools.  According to Bob Braun, the blogger and retired reporter from the Newark Star-Ledger, students with disabilities were not provided transportation at all on the first day.  There was considerable confusion as families tried to navigate a new shuttle bus service set up by the school district to support students who were assigned to schools far from home.  Newark’s public schools have not provided transportation in the past.

Braun has been persistent and prophetic in pointing out the racial implications of the Christie/Anderson experiment on Newark’s children.  I urge you to read all of his recent blog posts on the Newark schools, because he is forthright in naming how power politics and racial politics work in the biggest—and majority-African American—city of a wealthy state.

Here is Braun’s reflection on the meaning of a preliminary boycott organized by the Newark Student Union on the day before school started:  “Newark’s political and organizational leaders will, I know, scoff at this but right now, the leaders of the struggle against ‘One Newark’ and the privatization of public education are the hundreds of high school students who early this morning marched from three high schools to Military Park and who, tomorrow, are expected to take even bolder action against the policies of Cami Anderson, her puppet master Chris Christie, and Christie’s privatization guru, Cory Booker.  That doesn’t mean a few hundred high school students from Science Park, Arts, and Central will bring down Anderson, but what it does mean is this: For now, they are keeping the fight alive, they are serving as the conscience of the Newark community, and they are reminding everyone that real people—mothers and fathers and children—are hurt every day by the disruption caused by this mindless reorganization plan.”

On Thursday, September 4, the students’ school boycott and public demonstration blocked Broad Street in Newark for eight hours as schools opened under “One Newark.”  According to Braun, the high school students requested a meeting with Cami Anderson but were denied.  Braun reports that the mayor, Ras Baraka, posted his chief education policy adviser Lauren Wells all day at the protest.  She told the students, “they had ‘energized’ the fight against Anderson and for local control.  ‘We wanted to make sure you were safe,’ she said.”  Braun adds: “Although the children led the way yesterday with their act of civil disobedience, this is not child’s play. They were protecting the jobs and rights and income of adults… Those who believe the students’ fight is not every unionized teacher’s fight are simply burying their heads in the sand.”

Another YOUTUBE Video Wafts from Mountain Air of Aspen: Shows Chris Christie’s Arrogance

Here’s a good rule.  If you have political ambitions, don’t go to the Aspen Ideas Festival or the Aspen Institute, get comfortable among friends, get on a panel, and then make insulting remarks about the folks who are the key to your future.

Jonah Edelman disparaged school teachers.  His organization, Stand for Children, has not yet recovered its reputation.  In a new little book about the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike, Micah Uetricht tells the story: “In June 2011, Jonah Edelman, CEO of Stand for Children, gave an afternoon talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival, an annual gathering of ‘thought leaders’….  During the talk, Edelman,whose organization initially came to Illinois at the invitation of billionaire former private equity manager Bruce Rauner, spoke with astonishing candor; he explained calmly the backroom politicking necessary to ‘jam the proposal down [teachers and their union’s’] throats.’  Soon after its beginnings in Illinois, his organization donated $600,000 to nine state legislative races in attempt to curry favor with State House Speaker Michael Madigan….”   Edelman’s influence helped pass a bill restricting teachers unions by requiring 75 percent of all the members of any teachers union be required to vote to authorize a strike.  Edelman bragged about this accomplishment at Aspen: “‘In effect, they wouldn’t have the ability to strike,’ Edelman says matter-of-factly in the tape. ‘They will never be able to muster the 75 percent threshold.'” (Strike for America, pp.  59-62)

Jonah Edelman forgot about youtube, where his speech went viral.  You may remember that, partly inspired by Edelman’s challenge, just a year later in June of 2012, 90 percent of the entire membership of the Chicago Teachers Union voted to authorize teachers to strike in September of 2012.

Now, thanks to Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post column on Saturday, we all know, once again, that New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie disdains the people of Newark.  This time he said it in a July 24, 2014 panel discussion at the Aspen Institute.  We already knew, of course, that he isn’t concerned about the opinions of the people of New Jersey’s largest city from a speech he made earlier this year, the one in which he declared:  “And I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”  Newark’s public schools have been under state control for two decades, and Christie is in charge through the leadership of the much despised overseer superintendent he has appointed, Cami Anderson.  But at Aspen he emphasized his contempt.

It is easy to see how Christie could forget himself.  Strauss quotes the description on the Aspen Institute’s website of the event at which Christie was speaking:  “A panel of Republican governors will address the economy, how they are building skills for a 21st century workforce and share their ideas for improving their state’s education, tax and immigration policies.  Featured special guests include Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.  The event will be moderated by Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson.”

In the new youtube clip of his speech at Aspen, Christie describes meeting with the new mayor, Ras Baraka, soon after Newark’s May 2014 election.  Baraka is a respected  former high school principal and champion of keeping the schools in Newark public instead of turning them over to charter operators.  Strauss quotes Christie describing his meeting with Baraka: “He came in to talk to me about his agenda and said he wanted to speak to me about the education system in Newark.  And I said to him listen, I’ll listen to whatever you have to say but the state runs the school system.  I am the decider, and you have nothing to do with it.”  You can hear the Aspen Institute audience laugh at Christie’s description of the meeting.

Strauss provides an excellent summary of the what has become a governance crisis in Newark due to the arrogance and political ineptitude of Christie and his appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson:

“Anderson, a former Teach For America corps member has come under intense attack for her ‘One Newark’ district reorganization plan—which includes plans to close some traditional schools; lay off more than 1,000 teachers and hire Teach For America recruits to fill some open spots; and create a single enrollment system for Newark’s 21 charters and 71 traditional public schools.  She has also been blasted for a management style that even reform supporters concede is dismissive, arrogant and ineffective.  This past April, dozens of members of the Newark clergy sent a letter to Christie warning him that Anderson’s reform efforts were causing ‘unnecessary instability’ in the city and that they are ‘concerned about the level of public anger we see growing in the community’ over the issue.”

(This blog has extensively covered the privatization and mismanagement of Newark’s schools by Anderson and her mentor Chris Christie, and the rise of Ras Baraka, the new mayor, in a race where school governance became the pivotal campaign issue here, herehere, here, here, here,  and here.)

Feds Investigating Civil Rights Implications of School Closures in Newark

If you are middle class or rich, you are not likely to discover that anybody is planning to punish your child’s school by closing it.  School “reform” via “turnaround” happens in school districts like Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Newark, but it doesn’t happen in Winnetka, Grosse Pointe, Bryn Mawr, Chagrin Falls, or Montclair.

That is because the test-and-punish mechanisms of our federal testing law No Child Left Behind and newer policies designed around its philosophy—School Improvement Grants, for example—impose sanctions (like closing the school, turning the school into a charter school, or replacing the principal and the staff) on schools where the students persistently score in the bottom 5 percent of public schools nationwide.  Such schools are virtually always in the neighborhoods of our big cities where poverty is concentrated—which means that virtually all the children are extremely poor.  In our society we blame the test scores on the school without figuring out how to ameliorate the poverty.  As the editorial board of Rethinking Schools magazine has brilliantly stated: school reform based on high-stakes testing “disguises class and race privilege as merit.”

In a situation like Newark, New Jersey, where the school district has been under state control for two decades and where the state overseer school superintendent, Cami Anderson, reports to Governor Chris Christie instead of the locally elected school board, citizens are using every avenue provided by the democratic process to protect and improve their public schools. They elected school principal and strong defender of public education Ras Baraka mayor in May, even though they knew the mayor can’t control school policy, and they filed a complaint about Cami Anderson’s One Newark school reform plan this spring with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). This despite Chris Christie’s rude rebuke: “And I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”

New Jersey Spotlight reports that the OCR complaint was “filed in May by parent advocates who specifically cited the state-operated district’s planned closing of three schools that have predominantly African-American enrollment.”  On Tuesday, July 22, the OCR released a statement confirming, “that OCR is currently investigating whether Newark Public Schools’ enactment of the ‘One Newark’ plan at the end of the 2013-2014 school year discriminates against black children on the basis of race.  OCR’s investigation began in July 2013.  As it is an open investigation, we cannot share any further information.”

Bob Braun, longtime New Jersey reporter and now Newark blogger, reports that PULSE New Jersey, a group led by Sharon Smith, filed the complaint on May 13, as “part of its commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that outlawed school segregation.”  PULSE NJ’s letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said: “Education ‘reformers’ and privatizers are targeting neighborhood schools filled with children of color, and leaving behind devastation.  By stealth, seizure, and sabotage, these corporate profiteers are closing and privatizing our schools, keeping public education for children of color not only separate, not only unequal, but increasingly not public at all.”

Smith commented on OCR’s decision to investigate:  “We are pleased that it is now open and merits investigation.  But now it is about making sure it is a thorough investigation.”

PULSE NJ is working with a much broader coalition, Journey for Justice. Bob Braun quotes Journey for Justice organizer Jitu Brown, who understands Newark’s OCR complaint in the context the policy being adopted in urban school districts across the country of “turning around” low-scoring public schools by closing them: “What has been lacking—not only in Newark, but also in places like Chicago, New York, and New Orleans—is community input to help develop plans for successful public schools.  We have been faced with top-down education policies that have failed because they lack input from the people who are most affected.”

Market-Based Newark, NJ School Reform Epitomizes Tragic Nationwide Trend

Dale Russakoff’s May 19th, New Yorker magazine piece, Schooled, on the public schools of Newark, New Jersey, is very much worth reading. Russakoff describes “one of the nation’s must audacious exercises in education reform.  The goal was not just to fix the Newark schools but to create a national model for how to turn around an entire school district.”   Russakoff tells this as a local story with a cast of local characters including former mayor Cory Booker, New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie, Facebook’s Mark Zukerberg (the $100 million donor), and Christopher Cerf and Cami Anderson—Booker operatives who were later appointed by Governor Christie to lead New Jersey’s education department and to become the state-designated caretaker superintendent of Newark’s schools. Late in the story we meet Shavar Jeffries—the eventual loser in last month’s Newark mayoral race and the darling of powerful hedge fund managers who invested heavily in the campaign—and Ras Baraka, Newark’s newly elected mayor, formerly a public school teacher and high school principal, and a supporter of improving the neighborhood schools instead of closing at least a quarter of them.  Newark’s public schools have been under state control for two decades, and Cami Anderson’s One Newark plan features district-wide school choice.

Of course the story of Newark’s public schools is a local story, but because Newark’s public education battle is emblematic of the market-based school “reform” battles going on in cities across the United States—including New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland and other big cities—it is important to understand what is happening in Newark as part of a much broader narrative.  Owen Davis, in the May 28 issue of The Nation depicts Newark’s struggle in this larger context. His piece complements Russakoff’s and turns a local story into something much bigger.

Federal School Improvement Grant turnaround options (These grants are for schools whose scores fall in the bottom 5 percent across the United States.) include firing the principal and at least half the staff or closing the so-called failing school.  But in many cities, closing schools and firing staff have also become hallmarks of what appears to be a bigger school choice movement to turn schools over to the charter management companies.  Davis profiles Hawthorne Avenue School, located in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Newark’s South Ward.  In the past the school has struggled but, while its overall scores remain relatively low, for three years running it has very significantly and consistently improved performance. Teachers are collaborating under a strong principal, and parents are involved and organized. No matter. Cami Anderson’s One Newark plan offers no grace for Hawthorne.  Next fall the school is to be reduced from a K-8 school to a school serving only the primary grades.  Grades K-1 will be operated by TEAM academy charters and the district will operate grades K-4 with new staff.  All teachers must reapply.

Davis writes: “The upheaval at Hawthorne comes amidst one of the most dizzying spells of school reform a city has seen since Hurricane Katrina turned New Orleans into a laboratory for market-based reforms.  In January, the district suspended Hawthorne’s principal and four others after they inveighed against One Newark, the reorganization plan.  Superintendent Anderson’s appearance at community forums generates such protest that she’s stopped attending them altogether.  Reforms under her tenure have spurred marches and student walk-outs. In April, seventy-seven faith leaders signed a letter urging Anderson to halt One Newark for ‘producing irreversible changes and fomenting widespread outrage.'”  Anderson has moved to lay off more than a thousand teachers across the school district.  The charter sector that now serves a quarter of Newark’s students is expected to grow its share to 40 percent by 2016.  New Jersey will continue to operate Newark’s schools as a state-run enterprise, with, as Governor Christie declared, little concern the opinion of Newark’s citizens: “And I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark—not them.”

Zuckerberg’s gift of $100 million to Newark’s schools has neither fixed up old buildings nor replaced staff.  Davis describes cuts including social workers, counselors and school nurses.  $20 million thus far has been paid to consultants, including $1.86 million to Global Education Advisors, the company founded by Chris Cerf before he became the state’s education commissioner and hired the firm he had founded to begin plans for One Newark.  According to Davis, 40 percent of money paid to consultants has left New Jersey.  Despite that the state’s court-approved school funding remedy required that poor districts use an infusion of state aid to pay for counselors, social workers, parent liaisons, and tutors, Davis quotes a Christie spokesman who decried “the failed assumption of the last three decades that more money equals better education.”

State officials running Newark’s schools favor a market model, with the charter sector growing by 40 percent in the past four years. As students leave Newark’s schools for charters, writes Davis, they “take 90 percent of their funding with them.”  Davis quotes Andy Smarick, a former New Jersey deputy education commissioner  and (these days) a prominent advocate for the “creative destruction” of urban school districts: “The process meant securing friendly leadership, attracting big-name charters and roping in philanthropic allies.  As the district becomes a ‘financially unsustainable marginal player,’ he wrote, ‘eventually the financial crisis will become a political crisis.'”

An early casualty of the Christie-Cerf-Smarick-Anderson brand of school reform was the Global Village project, intended like the Harlem Children’s Zone to surround students and their families with medical and social services to supplement educational investment in the area’s schools. New York University sociologist Pedro Noguera was deeply involved in the development of Global Village.  Davis writes:  “Global Village’s demise also highlighted what some might call the hypocrisy of the market-based reform movement, which consistently emphasizes that its sole purpose is to improve the lives of poor children. While Noguera’s initiative bore a strong resemblance to the Harlem Children’s Zone, in its holistic philosophy toward urban education as well as in its name, it differed in one salient aspect: Global Village worked in district schools, not charters.  Perhaps that difference helps explain why the school reform movement that celebrates Harlem Children’s Zone was happy to see Global Village languish.”

Davis quotes Noguera, who has worked in school districts across the United States to try to address the impact of poverty in children’s lives while at the same time strengthening public schools: “It’s reflective of a larger problem across the country with the way we approach school reform.  It’s often driven by these outsiders who have no ties, no history with a community, no long-term relationship.”

New Jersey Columnist: Cry for Newark

Bob Braun was a reporter for 50 years for the Newark Star-Ledger.  These days he blogs about the public school crisis in Newark, New Jersey.  Newark’s public schools have been under state control for two decades.  As in most places, state takeover has never worked in Newark.  Today the strings are being pulled by Governor Chris Christie and Cami Anderson—the state-appointed overseer superintendent, alternatively trained at the Broad Academy and formerly employed by Joel Klein in New York.

Anderson has brought a plan, One Newark, to take over neighborhood schools, bring in KIPP and other charter management companies, and give parents school choice.  Newark has erupted this spring as parents have continued to defend their neighborhood public schools.  This blog has recently covered the school crisis in Newark here, herehere, and here.

Last week Braun described the botched roll-out of Anderson’s One Newark plan.  By mid-April, Anderson had promised to announce to parents their children’s school choice match assignments for next fall.  But in a letter posted on the school district’s website and notes sent home with children in backpacks, she delayed the assignments until mid-May.  Anderson and her staff have been unable to finalize a transportation plan, there have been problems placing students with special needs, and it turns out many parents did not apply for school choice, which means there must be a second application process.  According to Braun, “One Newark was not only unworkable in design but now the state regime running the schools is so incompetent it can’t figure out what to do about the transportation and special education problems it created.”  Anderson “still doesn’t know how to handle the placement of special education students, especially those whose parents might want to go to charter schools that are unprepared to deal with them.”

According to New Jersey Spotlight, just last week in the midst of the school district controversy, Cami Anderson was awarded  promised bonuses from Governor Christie’s administration for reaching performance goals.  Anderson receives a base salary of $247,500, but she was awarded $32,992 in bonus payments: “And according to details released this past week by the administration, she continues to hit a majority of performance goals that have gained her tens of thousands of dollars in additional pay.”  Her new bonus is for hitting five of seven targets that “included both qualitative and quantitative measures, from new evaluation systems for principals to test score gains in individual schools.”

In a very moving post yesterday, Bob Braun describes the plight of parents and children trapped in this controversy.  Cry for Newark describes the pleas of Grace Sergio, the outgoing president of the Hawthorne Avenue School parent organization, and students from the school who made formal presentations to the school board (elected but rendered powerless by state control) charged with implementing One Newark.  The protests have become so contentious that Cami Anderson has stuck by her announcement several weeks ago that she will no longer attend these public meetings.

After presenting data that Hawthorne Avenue School has met the demanded achievement goals—first in the city in student growth, third in the state in student growth, seventh in Newark in academic achievement—Sergio asked Newark’s school board, “What more do we need to do?”

Brawn writes: “Anderson’s treatment of Hawthorne—and similar schools throughout the state’s largest district—has been a nightmare…  She stripped the school of its librarians, its counselors, its attendance personnel.  She has ignored constant pleas to repair crumbling walls and leaking ceilings—promising repair money only after she gave the building to TEAM Academy, the local name for KIPP charters, and the Brick schools (which will co-locate in the building).”

Braun notes that parents of 268 of the school’s 340 students chose Hawthorne for next year when they submitted the Universal Application.  The rest might have done the same, but Hawthorne will no longer be a K-8 school; its charters will serve children only through the fourth grade.

Braun concludes: “Sad. There’s a word rarely heard in the context of the state’s war on Newark’s neighborhood public schools. Sad. Yet the story of how a cruelly tone-deaf state bureaucrat named Cami Anderson is singlehandedly destroying a community’s neighborhood schools is just that. Sad.  And nothing more illustrates that sadness than the brave but probably futile effort of one successful neighborhood school to remain alive despite Anderson’s promise to give it to privatized educational entrepreneurs who include former business partners of the recently resigned state education commissioner… It’s about money and power and greed.”  (Thanks to Diane Ravitch for circulating Braun’s powerful column, Cry for Newark, late last night.)