I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Newark: Taxation Without Representation

I'm beginning to believe that the reason New Jersey doesn't have a standardized test in civics is that the children of Newark might then have to be taught that democracy means having a say in how your government is run. They might, in turn, question why democracy is not allowed in Newark:
Newark’s public schools will begin their 16th year of operating under state control next month, and a majority of advisory school board members want it to be the district’s last.
This summer, years after city schools were found to be so dysfunctional that state education officials assumed control of them, board members and public education advocates are trying to make a case the school system has improved enough to be returned to local control.
"We want democratic control over the school system. This is not a dictatorship," said Alturrick Kenney, an advisory board member, during an impromptu community meeting at the high school last week. "Sixteen years is too long and it’s too late. And at some point we have to say enough is enough."
It's a real catch-22: the state says the schools aren't good enough for local control, so they take jurisdiction. The state then runs the schools poorly, which means they aren't good enough for local control. Did Kafka live in Newark?

Chris Christie says the school system in Newark is a failure; he wants to bring "hope" to the children there. OK, how about we try something new? How about we give the parents of those children a say in how their schools are run? According to you, what have we got to lose?

Of course, that would mean that the people if Newark could reject charters and vouchers and no-bid "consulting" contracts paid for by California billionaires. It would mean that Newark's people could reject an educational culture of "white people... destroy and leave."

We can't have that, can we?
Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf has refused to consider returning the district to local control.
"At this time, I am not prepared to recommend that any partial withdrawal be initiated," he wrote in a July letter to Cami Anderson, superintendent of Newark schools. Cerf cited low graduation rates and troublesome percentages of students not proficient in math or language arts as reasons for his decision.
At issue is the education of more than 40,000 Newark schoolchildren and the district’s $940 million annual budget.
However, some say the city’s schools are being used as an experiment and it will take a lot of pressure, either legally or politically, for the city school system to return to local control.
Paul Tractenberg, founding director of the Institute on Education Law and Policy at Rutgers Newark, said Newark’s schools are viewed as a "kind of laboratory to put into practice the things they want to do."
"I read the situation in Newark as (the state) saying, ‘Hey, we’re in control of Newark, so we can essentially do whatever we want there,’ " he said. Tractenberg wrote a 2001 report that outlined a plan for re-establishing local control after a state takeover.[emphasis mine]
Remember, it was Cerf, with a long history of privatizing the functions of public schools, who described education as "... a $650 billion sector, second only to health care." $940 million is a lot of scratch; you can almost see an ambitious privatizer literally licking his or her chops at the possibilities.

So, sorry Newark! If we give you your schools back, you may not go along with the plan; it's a risk the corporate "reformers" just can't take. Celebrities, billionaires, and politicians with national ambitions are in the driver's seat; you can just sit back and get taken for a ride.

Cory says, "Let my friends run the schools, even if they don't live here!"

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