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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

No Local Control of Schools For Poor Minorities

- Many citizens of Fort Lee, NJ, were unhappy with their school superintendent's performance. The local school board pressured him to resign. The state's response?

Nothing - even though that superintendent, Steve Engravalle, was a personal favorite of both Governor Christie and NJDOE Commissioner Cerf.

- Many citizens of Perth Amboy, NJ, were unhappy with their school superintendent's performance. The local school board voted to remove her. The state's response?

Reinstate her against their will, then wait out hearing an appeal until a new school board could be elected (with the unprecedented help of tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-state money).

- Many citizens of Camden, NJ, were unhappy with their school superintendent's performance. The local school board pressured her to resign, and arranged interviews for her replacement. The state's response?

Completely take over the district and disenfranchise the board. (Keep in mind that the state had veto power over the superintendent's hiring back in 2007.)

Three different districts - three different responses from the state. Why is that, I wonder...




Fort Lee has a majority white/Asian student population, and relatively low levels of poverty. The locally-elected school board feels it made a mistake in hiring a district leader, and they get to remove him without giving up local control.

Perth Amboy has a majority Hispanic student population, and higher levels of poverty. The locally-elected school board feels it made a mistake in hiring a district leader, but they don't get to remove her. They do, however, retain local control.

Camden has a majority black/Hispanic student population and crushing levels of poverty. The locally-elected appointed school board feels it made a mistake in hiring a district leader, but they are now compelled to give up what little control over their district they had left.

In New Jersey, local control - for all its flaws - is a privilege enjoyed by communities with few students of color and little poverty.

Everyone good with this? After all, it's "for the kids"...


* DFG = "District Factor Group." "A" is the lowest level of socio-economic for a district; J is the highest. Wonky note: as "A" districts, Perth Amboy and Camden have preschool numbers added into their totals. That potentially skews things a little, as Fort Lee doesn't have the same pre-school enrollment. But the differences are so wide here I hardly think it matters to my overall point. Still, I try to get these things right.

Also - that's "Free Lunch," not "Free and Reduced Lunch." I think it's a better indicator of poverty; your mileage may vary. Again, the differences are so vast it doesn't really matter to my point.

2 comments:

jcg said...

ouch- hypocrites busted again. What will it take for them to be shamed?

edededucation said...

Jersey Jazzman I'm wondering why we have fetishized local control recently? Why is it that we assume that average parents have the experience and background knowledge to make important and tough educational decisions?

To me, it's a similar issue with school choice - I don't believe the average parent has the ability to evaluate the educational ecologies of two schools and make evidence-based decisions.

Let's think about this more consistently - one of our main issues with teacher evaluation is that we can't say teachers are bad simply because results are bad. What's to keep parents from coming to the same conclusion that corporate reformers come to? Who's to say that, given local control, parents wouldn't replace hard working teachers simply because they don't see their children performing?