NEWARK — Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s promise was simple: No action would be taken on school reform without the support of the community.But roughly a month before the results of an exhaustive community survey on school reform were set to be released, a plan was obtained by The Star-Ledger detailing significant changes throughout the school system, including a dramatic expansion of charter schools.
You can choose to send your kid and your tax dollars to a public school, or to an even worse charter school. It's like Baskin-Robbins, only with education! 31 flavors, and they all suck!Other recommendations include expanding or opening 11 charter schools inside district schools that have available space. Some of the charter schools would be new and therefore have unproven track records.Others, like Lady Liberty and Adelaide Sanford, have students who perform little better on state tests than their district counterparts.Only 31.7 percent of fifth-graders at Lady Liberty show proficiency in language arts on the state standardized test, a figure lower than the district average of 36.7 percent. In math, 35 percent of the charter school’s fifth-grade students are proficient, while the district average is 37.8 percent.Fifth-graders at Camden Middle School, who will be pushed out to clear space for Lady Liberty, produce average scores that exceed math proficiency among their charter school peers.The percentage of fourth-graders at Adelaide Sanford proficient in language arts is also lower than Newark’s district average, though the charter school students’ performance in math exceeds the city’s average.Despite the potential flaws in the plan, proponents say that its basic elements will create more choice for parents and students."There are 28,000 students that are in under-performing schools. The plan will create 16 new options for parents," said Mashea Ashton, president of the Newark Charter School Fund, which supports charter school expansion. "There will definitely be challenges, but the challenges are few compared to the opportunities." [emphasis mine]
And who's behind all this?
Who would have guessed Chris Cerf would be pushing the privatization of our public schools?Acting state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, who founded the firm that prepared the recommendations, said parents and community members would have roughly a month to evaluate the plan and give input.Cerf said he severed his relationship with the firm once he was nominated in December for education commissioner by Gov. Chris Christie.Cerf said the recommendations were designed to provide greater choice. "This is 100 percent about empowering parents," Cerf said. "Nobody’s trying to jam anything here."Last Wednesday, however, Newark announced that the five new district high schools would be opened inside five existing high schools. The announcement came only a week before the district had to present its budget to the state.