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

Friday, January 11, 2013

Newark Parents Fight School Closings

I've just received a copy of a remarkable letter from a parent group in Newark: Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE). The letter is reprinted below; here's the story:

Newark, like so many other urban districts, just went through a round of neighborhood school closings. The pattern seems to be the same in every city: an autocratic mayor or a conservative governor comes in and disenfranchises the local citizens (see New York City, Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago, etc.).

A regime of charter schools is set up, segregating the children by language, disability, socio-economic status, and, yes, even race. Outsiders then begin a propaganda campaign, convincing both the citizens of the city and the media-at-large that they are offering parents "choice," even though that "choice" is between under-funded, crumbling neighborhood public schools and charters that may have more resources but also impose a rigid and authoritarian learning style on their students.

Inevitably, parents and other concerned members of the community start standing up and demanding that their voices be heard. The response of those in charge is to run away from criticism (Newark) or suppress criticism through anti-democratic practices limiting free speech (Milwaukee, Chicago). When autocratic school authorities ignore the will of the people, what options do citizens have left?

PULSE shows us one: using the law to show that the practices of segregating students and disenfranchising parents are violations of civil rights. PULSE has petitioned the USDOE's Office For Civil Rights to investigate whether the closing of several schools in Newark is discriminatory against students based on race, national origin, or disability. And the federal government has now said there is enough evidence to launch an investigation.

I don't see how anyone can say that Newark's charter schools don't discriminate; even the infamous NJ CREDO report clearly shows a pattern of segregation. The work of Dr. Bruce Baker and others highlights a disturbing trend of racial, language, and learning disability segregation within the Newark charter system. And the NJDOE has such laughably weak regulations to enforce equity of access to charters that there is no reason to believe they will be forced to desegregate any time soon.

The school closings in Newark are a direct result of this charter expansion. Further, we know that the schools the NJDOE lists as "Priority" serve many more racial minorities and students in poverty than those listed as "Reward":
The strategy of closing "failed" schools is mired in racial and economic bias, as is the disenfranchisement of urban communities from running their own school districts. It is most certainly a civil rights issue, and it needs to be fought on those grounds.

Many thanks to the brave parents who are taking a stand in Newark. We'll all be watching with great interest.


6 comments:

Deb said...

Thanks for giving PULSE, their courage and intelligence a shout out here Duke. We need to raise awareness, keep the pressure on and support each other across the state in these battles.

Karen Foster said...

I am SHOCKED that Duncan allowed this.
Along with his privatization scheme, Cory Booker is their hand-picked corporate ed. boy (Funny how he quietly dropped his support of vouchers). They are doing the best to elevate him to God status as to get their greedy hands on all of that juicy public ed money. Especially since the same people milked the mortgage industry for all it was worth until they killed it. Now they are doing their very best to leave education as nothing more than a bloody corpse too.
God help them.

Mrs. King's music students said...

Reading this is like reliving what happened to Lanning Square School in Camden. After our newish building was razed for "structural" reasons, and funding was amassed for rebuilding - all protests were quashed, and staff and students were dumped into already overcrowded schools. Turns out our original school site was right in the middle of another man's big ole riverfront development. Wish us luck. We're still trying to break the surface

Karen Foster said...

I am convinced that the Lanning Square property was gift to Norcross for cooperation from his "boys" and Oliver on the pen/ben and Rutgers deals.
Construction was held up on it at first because Norcross needed to park his equipment there during his hospital expansion. Then as soon as construction is done he just happens to have a plan for his very own privatized charter school to go on that property. But Camden residents need not fret, he's promising to lease some space back to the public school system.

Meanwhile he has his Camden County lackeys build him his very own hand-picked county police force at my expense to protect HIS interests. Then he holds jobs on the new county force over their heads in order to get extra protection for his hospital. At the same time a rapist runs loose in Camden with no extra officers ordered to protect the residents.
At the same time in Trenton, before Camden county residents realize that their PD's will be dismantled to pay for Camden, his left and right hands (Sweeney and Greenwald) propose legislation to withhold state funding to any town that doesn't go along with the hijacking of police departments by party bosses.
I don't know how this man is not in jail for racketeering. Aside from every politician, he owns every judge down here.

TomB said...

There is an important article in The American Prospect which details that it is not just Newark parents who are fighting this discrimination. The article shows this is actually a national movement.

Fighting Education Shock Therapy
With tools from 1964, community activists are pushing the White House to turn federal education policy around.

http://prospect.org/article/fighting-education-shock-therapy

Mrs. King's music students said...

Not the least of which, the new extra special cops scooped up from neighboring counties don't want to work in the murder capital anymore than the next guy. Makes me think the pendulum will swing the other way soon enough and you and I will be right back where we started. Only the students will suffer the consequences of this for the rest of their lives.