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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

$100 MIllion Just Don't Buy What It Used To

Remember when Zuck's bucks were going to completely change everything in Newark? How's that going?

When Anderson unveiled the plan last February, however, she was heckled at public meetings by residents who accused her of trying to rob them of their neighborhood schools. “Cami Anderson, I have not seen such trickery since the devil took over the Garden of Eden,” one of her detractors told her at a budget hearing [ed note: Man, that's funny!]. Naturally, the teachers’ union has happily stoked the outrage. “I’m all for school reform,” Del Grosso chuckles. “But this is the Dr. Kevorkian approach.”
The budget crunch has also forced Anderson to cut arts and music programs at some schools. Residents find this bizarre at a time when so many philanthropic dollars are flowing into Newark. “I don’t understand why you are doing this,” a frustrated Newarker asked at the budget meeting. “Where’s the Facebook money?” Good question. The money pledged to the Foundation for Newark’s Future is supposed to be spent on “high-impact innovations” rather than plugging holes in the district’s operating budget. Anderson also notes: “The large investments haven’t happened yet. Those require additional matching funds.” Booker has raised $54 million to date. So far, the Foundation for Newark’s Future has committed only $16 million to a variety of small bore projects like $600,000 in small grants for teachers who come up with interesting projects, and $176,000 for elementary school students so they can treat themselves to some books.
The district’s financial troubles will likely deepen. The number of teachers in the excess pool is expected to hit 200 in the coming school year, and the superintendent is reluctant to resort to layoffs. New Jersey’s tenure law has a strict seniority clause that forces districts to let go of new hires first. That means Anderson would lose many of her new recruits before she could dismiss any of the veterans in the pools. That’s the last thing Booker wants. He has talked to Zuckerberg and Christie about using philanthropic dollars for buyouts of teachers in the excess pool. But it might very well exhaust much of the funds he has raised for school reform, and it is sobering to imagine Zuckerberg’s pledge going to pay off the least desirable teachers in the Newark school system. On April 30 the three of them had a conference call to discuss this. “What can I do to help?” Christie recalls Zuckerberg saying.
Christie assured him that he’d done all that he could: “The rest is up to us.”
As of June 2012, no teachers have been fired, and the administrative staff remains the same size. [emphasis mine]
First thing: let's find out more about these excess pool teachers, shall we? I'm talking to you, Lisa Fleisher, or Jessica Calefati, or Bob Braun: it would be a great story if you went out and told us who these teachers are. All we know is that their current  administrators didn't want them - but does that mean they're bad teachers?

I'm serious about this: let's find out if these "bad" teachers are really the problem Anderson says they are. All it would take are a few phone calls, right?

Next: hey, I have a crazy idea! Instead of having billionaires come in and drop money wherever they decide to put it...

... let's tax them! And turn control of the schools over to... get ready for a shocker... the people who actually live in Newark!

Why, it's just so crazy, it actually might work!

Democracy for Newark? Yeah, we don't think so...


Stuart Buck said...

Newark has over $24,000 per student to spend per year, according to the recent US Census report. What sort of misgovernance could be causing any budget troubles?

Duke said...

Stuart, my favorite school finance cartoon ever (first one) says it all:


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