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, February 11, 2012

What Is "Teachers Village"?

Remember the name: Teachers Village. It's a $150 million, mixed-use development that just broke ground with great fanfare in Newark. The idea is that teachers will live in the complex and teach at one of the three charter schools that will occupy the site.

As you might imagine, your taxpayers dollars are funding this experiment:
The project was awarded nearly $40 million in Urban Transit Hub tax credits from the state Economic Development Authority and allocated $60 million in federal New Markets tax credits for the school portion. Other public financing came from the city of Newark, the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and federal Qualified School Construction Bonds, according to an EDA memo. Private financing came from Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial Corp., TD Bank and New Jersey Community Capital, Beit said. In the early months of the recession, Beit said, Berggruen’s unwavering commitment to the project — Berggruen said he considers his investment "long-term" — brought everyone else together.
$100 million in tax credits; not too shabby. If anyone tries to convince you that billionaires are interested in charter schools solely out of altruism, point them to this project. Why else do you think the biggest Master of the Universe of them all showed up?
A veritable who’s who of real estate developers, corporate leaders and elected officials gathered this morning to celebrate the groundbreaking of Teachers Village in downtown Newark and mark the start of a major project now underway.
The crowd of more than 200 piled into a tent at the site at the corner of Halsey and William streets, two blocks from the Prudential Center. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, whose urban investment group helped finance the project, said projects like Teachers Village are exactly the types of opportunities they look for to support economic growth. World famous architect Richard Meier, who was born in Newark and designed the buildings, said the day was “more than a homecoming, it is a dream come true.” The majority of project investors are from New York, including lead developer Ron Beit of RBH Group. [emphasis mine]
I'm going to have a lot to say about this as I keep digging over the next few weeks. For now:
  • The apartments in the complex are studios to two-bedrooms that will range from $700 to $1,400 a month. Who do you think will be attracted to this housing: young people just starting out, or older couples with families? So much for experienced teachers working at these charters, although that has always been one of the key points of the charter "movement," hasn't it? Even here in Jersey (thanks, Darcie).
  • According to my dead tree version of the S-L, there are three charter schools scheduled to take up residence at Teachers Village: Discovery Charter School, TEAM Academy (a K-4 KIPP school), and Great Oaks Charter School. I'll be taking a closer look at all three, but let's see what Bruce Baker has already uncovered about TEAM (my annotation):You can see that roughly 60% of TEAM's students qualify for free lunch (a measure of poverty). That's quite a bit, but far less than most of the other schools in Newark. And, even then, Bruce's model shows the school slightly underperforms expectations when accounting for student characteristics. I'm not saying TEAM is a bad school; far from it. I just wonder why they - and, for that matter, Discovery and Great Oaks - got the space at Teachers Village. What was the criteria? Who made the decision?
  • The lead developer, Ron Beit, gives great credit to Nicolas Berggruen's "unwavering commitment" to the project. Guess who Berggruen's good buddy in Los Angeles is? Eli Broad. Yes, the same Eli Broad who paid ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf's old firm $500,000 to write up a plan to convert many of Newark's pubic schools into charters. Everyone OK with that?
This is a big, complicated story, and it's going to take time to unravel it. Stay tuned...

ADDING: Dana Goldstein weighs in:
Newark is not the first city to experiment with workforce housing for teachers, and to combine such projects with a standards-and-accountability school reform agenda. Baltimore’s Miller Court includes 40 teacher apartments, 70 percent of which are rented by Teach for America recruits. In Los Angeles, the Glassell Park complex combines a district pre-school with affordable housing for teachers and other community members.
Another model is an attempt to increase parents’ involvement with their children’s education by co-locating schools with housing reserved for low-income families. Using a mix of public and philanthropic dollars, the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society runs four full-service children’s centers within public housing projects in the neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, and Brownsville. The centers include pre-schools and family support services, and the Society partners with city social service agencies to identify which children living in public housing are most in-need of early academic enrichment.
Of course, this type of project lacks the potential profit-making upsides of market-rate housing for middle-class teachers. [emphasis mine]
Oh, my.


Anonymous said...

There is something really creepy about this. To be honest, it reminds me of Chinese work dorms. They want to elevate the community by inviting in working professionals to live there, but those professionals will be serving in the work houses of those they are paying to live there. And, as I hear the names of those involved I get even more suspicious, there is nothing philanthropic about any of their motives. Thanks, Jazzman, from those of us who need to stay informed.

Unknown said...

This is the Chinese model Apple corp admired for their efficiency and flexibility. When apple needed to beat competitors to the market with product, employees were on call 24 hrs a day. kind of reminds me of the company towns the coal industry built in Appalachia. Microsoft and google aren,t much different. They expect their programmers to be at their beck and call 24 hrs per day. That's why they have corporate centers with gyms, sleeping areas, and stores. They!re the mega churches of the tech industry.
Now that the govt has sold public schools to the financial industry, teachers will be mandated to sell their souls to Goldman Sachs.barbaric. This is why Obama is not getting my vote in 2012.

czarejs said...

Watch the movie "Matewan". Those apartments aren't going to be more then company homes. Step out of line, be on the wrong side of a political campaign, don't buy from the company store.... how long do you think you'll be allowed to stay?

Anonymous said...

I hope they put the suicide nets outside the windows (a la China's Foxconn).

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting when we lose tenure. Teachers will be moveing in and out like crazy. Will teachers even qualify with the currentt climate of job security in education. If leases are signed will fired teachers be held responsible for annual leases? Now teachers pay will go to building owners (political cronies?) instead of unions in the future. This is creepy.

Anonymous said...

FOXCONN for teachers. That was my first thought too. God help us all.

Anonymous said...

Not only creepy but one step removed from what a cult would require of its members. The dorm concept is more in line with college or the military, but hey these 'recruits' are fighting a mission- a fool's errand. I always found that no matter how devoted I was to my work, I didn't want to live nearby nor in close proximity to my colleagues or other teachers. Call me selfish, but I needed some "me-time".

Anonymous said...

If you're going to build something, at least do in the 'burbs where the students have a fighting chance.

Unknown said...

Investing in US public schools is chump change for the likes of Goldman Sachs and Wall St investment firms. Why invest in education and teacher villages? Maybe this statement by Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase is a clue:

"McKinsey did a report that showed that the credit needs of multinationals are going to double in the next ten years,” he said. “The net worth of the world is going to double in the next decade. Institutional funding will double in the next ten years.We’re a store, you can buy bonds, FX, advice—we provide great products at a great price. That store is not going to go away. If you’re a big, smart investor and we can give you the best price and the best service, you’ll still be coming here, just like Wal-Mart and Costco.”"

The industry's fancy derivatives and outrageous leverage are going away and now they're looking to scale up and replicate 'education' across the globe. Cheap, efficient, and quickly replicable product.

Duke said...

Thx, everyone. Yes, this is creepy and weird, and more so the more I dig into it. Stand by.

Bellevue reader-teacher-librarian said...

The dystopian future has arrived. (The music score beats, "I sold my soul to the company store...")

witkacy said...

On first reading in the Star Ledger of Meier's participation in this project, and seeing the nifty computer-generated renderings (of a strange shiny new land not resembling Newark NJ on Planet Earth), I was instantly skeptical and suspicious. The skepticism was well-prepped by my having read then-Councilman Cory Booker's old speech to the right-wing Manhattan Institute and the subsequent love-letters various M.I. people had written re what was to be Mayor Booker's shiny, new privatization frontier of corporate tax abatements and charter schools.

This whole scenario - with the "native" starchitect, the corporate-sponsored "village" (Potemkin village?) nestled in the state's largest city--it's been a long time in the making...

Teacher Mom said...

"St. Peter don't you call because I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store."