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, January 4, 2012

Urban Students=Cash Cows

Hey, I know how to fix schools: let's give MORE tax money to private companies! As quickly as possible!
First proposed by Gov. Chris Christie and since taken up by South Jersey Democrats, a plan that would open up select public schools to nonprofit or even for-profit management appears poised for passage in the final days of the legislature's lame duck session. 
The proposed Urban Hope Act, at least in its current incarnation, is in part an attempt to speed the glacial pace of getting new schools built in some of New Jersey's poorest districts. The initiative may enlist the aid of the Schools Development Authority, which is often criticized for dragging its feet on projects. 
The measure has seen a host of changes since the idea was first announced by Christie at a Camden public school last summer, and then filed as bills by state Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) and state Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-Camden). 
Initially envisioned as an effort by Christie to convert low-performing public schools to private management, the latest version is focused on building a few new public schools in three districts: Camden, Newark, and Jersey City. Up to four schools could be launched in each district. [emphasis mine]
Well, I guess we now know why ACTING Commissioner Cerf doesn't want local control in Newark, handpicked his buddy to be the superintendent there, and is sticking his nose into the Jersey City super search.
Numerous questions remain, since the bill does allow for private management of at least some non-instructional school functions. It also waives public bidding laws for these schools and brings in the potential that some of the projects would be built on SDA land that had been designated by the Supreme Court for district schools.
As the NJ DOE has shown, they are not much interested these days in open public bidding.
Much of the attention is focused on a project being promoted by Norcrosss' brother, Democratic leader George Norcross, that would use land next to the Cooper Health Systems in Camden, of which he is chairman. The property in Lanning Square had been earmarked for a district public school that has been perennially stalled by the SDA.
Hence the Norcrosses' newfound interest in public education.
Norcross, the senator, didn't deny that the Lanning Square site would be a prime candidate for the project, and he said one of the impetuses of the bill as now written is to get long-stalled projects moving in some form. Norcross has been a frequent critic of the SDA's slow action under Christie.
"There are a number of sites in Camden, and they will all get looked at," he said. "There has been nothing more disappointing than seeing [the Lanning Square site] sit there year after year.[emphasis mine]
Uh-huh. Yeah, it's all about the kids... And so it goes in the world of New Jersey education "reform": "saving" kids by moving tax dollars over to private interests.

I'll tell you one thing: there's no way in the world this bill should pass until the Cerf Charter Report - now 303 days late - comes out. Why should we give money to private charter school operators when we can't even look at the evidence as to whether or not charters work?


Unknown said...

Conveniently for Georgie boy, he's been using the Lanning Square site to park his Cooper hospital construction equipment. People should be wary of any Republican who says they want to help kids while they make every attempt to cut school lunch programs and cut their Medicaid and shelter funding.

Anonymous said...

This bill also allows bonds to be issued for the construction of these schools -- and issued without standard approval processes at the local, school or state level (see 13a and b in the bill). And while these renaissance schools are supposed to make payments on these bonds, if they default, our tax payer money covers the bill. It does not take long to find examples of charter schools that have mismanaged or simply stolen money (ELC report, June 25, 2010 - http://www.educationjustice.org/newsletters/nlej_iss19_art1_detail_CharterSchoolFraud.htm) to realize this bill is written to promote the worst behavior seen across the country when it comes to charter school construction and operation.

Unknown said...

Was this bill modeled after an ALEC written bill? If so, the same corrupt legislation will be popping up all over the country. Check out the Center for Media and Democracy's list of ALEC's K-12 and Higher Ed privatization bills here:


ALEC has written several bills about charter schools.