What I think we need to be concerned about is perhaps not what's going on in Fair Lawn, but what's going on in a lot of other places in our state where the children and their families are being cheated. And when you spend nearly $30,000 per year per pupil in Absury Park, and less than 50% of the kids in high school can do math at an 8th Grade level, something's wrong. When you're in the City of Newark, and you're spending $24,000 per pupil per year, and of the kids who entered the Ninth Grade this past year, only 23% of them will graduate in four years with a high school degree, and of those 23% who graduate, over 90% if they go on to some type of higher education, need an additional year of remedial work at the college before they can qualify to sit in a college classroom, somthing's wrong. Something's very wrong.
And it's costing us an enormous amount of money in the short term, but worse yet, what it's costing us is the future of the economic vitality of this state. Because those children have to become the trained workforce of the state for tomorrow, and we are failing them and we've been failing them for a long time.
So part of the discussion we have to engage in when we get beyond tomorrow with folks like you who are in good school districts, is to say how do we change this system so that destiny is not determined by zip code, or by the economic wherewithal of your parents. Because for those kids in Newark and Jersey City and Asbury Park and Camden and Trenton, Atlantic City, Paterson, Passaic - they have no hope. None. And it is not in my mind acceptable for us to be able to say because in Fair Lawn, where I am today, or Mendham where I live, or Livingston where I grew up, children are getting a good education, that we are acquitted of our responsibility.
And, so, I'm glad you're proud to be a member of the Fair Lawn Education Association. I'm thrilled that you've committed your life to helping to make children more educated and better prepared to have a productive life. I don't have any different goal than that.
But my job's not just for Fair Lawn, and not just for Livingston, and not just for Mendham, or Westfield, or Haddonfield , or Cherry Hill. My job is also for Newark and Camden and Jersey City and Trenton, and I can't sit by any longer and allow a failed system to treat those children as if they're disposable. And that's the way they're being treated now. So we need to get on the same page on that. We do.
Cue the violins.
In the interests of "getting on the same page," may I bring up a few inconvenient points?
- If things are fine in Fair Lawn, why in the hell are you trying to radically change them? Why are you bringing charter schools and VAM and the end of tenure and merit pay and the end of seniority and pay caps and all this unproven garbage to Fair Lawn and Mendham and Livingston and all the rest if that's NOT where the problem lies?!?!
- If you think Newark and Paterson and Jersey City are "failed" systems - and the state's been running them for 20 years - how about giving the people of those cities control of the schools again? It really takes a lot of stones to cluck about "failure" and then impose all of these corporate-type "reforms" from on high onto these cities when the people who live there have no say over what happens to their schools.
- If you really give a damn about the kids in "failing" systems, shouldn't you try to make them more like the systems that are succeeding? Once again, here's Bruce Baker's chart:
The difference between Fair Lawn and Paterson is not tenure and charter schools and masters bumps and all the other stupid crap Christie pushes; the difference is poverty, racism, and language.
Christie's "reforms" do nothing to address this. He spews loads of lovely words at the families of these children in need, but he offers nothing else. And then he strolls into the 'burbs, hosting some of the best schools in the nation, and weeps his crocodile tears for the poor, while simultaneously destroying these great schools with his stupid ideas.
You may ask, "Why?" Well, isn't it obvious?