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, July 3, 2012

The Shot Against Charters Heard 'Round the World

A citizen revolution has been brewing in Newark for some time, with local citizens getting increasingly sick and tired of being left out of decisions that affect their own children.

So, if this is a revolution, yesterday was the Battle of Lexington and Concord:
The Newark public schools uneasy relationship with the city’s charter schools stirred more debate last night, as the district’s advisory board rejected leases to share space with the alternative schools. Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson, however, appeared poised to overrule and let the leases proceed. 
The proposed leases of five district buildings to charter school operators for next year has been the latest source of friction in a long run of contentious community meetings surrounding the state-run schools. 
Unable to make a decision last week, the district advisory board met in a special meeting last night to further consider them. The state has a deadline for issuing its final charters for next fall by July 15. 
After lengthy public comment, the board formally and overwhelmingly voted against four of the five proposed leases.
Remember: Cami Anderson is from New York City, the hotbed of colocation. Big charter guns like Eva Moskowitz have used colocation to grow their charter networks in Gotham, despite the fact that they themselves admit their results are not replicable for large student populations. As Diane Ravitch points out, Moskowitz is happy to shill for increasing her management fees even as she sucks the life out of her neighboring public schools.

Well, maybe we're finally seeing the one upside to all of this: the good people of Newark need only look across the Hudson to be forewarned about what's coming their way. Of course, Chris Christie rules Newark with the same iron glove Bloomberg uses in NYC, so it really doesn't matter much what the mere plebes think:
Still, almost as soon as it was taken, many expected that Anderson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie last year, would promptly overrule at least some of the votes.
Anderson quickly left the meeting without comment, but spokeswoman Renee Harper said a decision could come as soon as today. Harper would not make a prediction but said the veto was a clear option.
“She maintains that right and will act in the best interest of the district and of all the children,” Harper said in an interview. “We’ll see what happens.”
The meeting at the Belmont Runyon Elementary School continued the run of raucous community meetings that have grown commonplace in the city over charter schools and the state’s ongoing control of the district overall. The state seized operation of district in 1994, appointing its superintendent ever since.
It is Anderson as the latest superintendent who has made the sharing of district space with charter schools one of the centerpieces of her sweeping reorganization of the district.
Let's be crystal clear about this: the people of Newark have no control over their schools. Eli Broad has paid a relatively small sum of money (for him) to basically reshape the Newark schools however his protege, ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf, sees fit. It doesn't matter if the plans themselves are hack junk; they want to close neighborhood schools and replace them with charters that serve substantially different student populations. So that's what they're going to get - period.

And if anyone says "boo," well...
Others brought up what is becoming a recurring theme of the community meetings, that the state is selling out the public schools to for-private interests, even if the charter schools are virtually all non-profit entities.
“We know who the enemy is, and we must fight to our last breath to save our children and to save Newark public schools,” said Mildred Crump, a city councilwoman who was the first in the audience to speak at the meeting.
“For those of you willing to sell our children for profit, shame on you,” she said.
Added Junius Williams, a longtime civic activist in Newark: “This is a real estate scheme to put public property in private hands.”
Board members did not offer up much comment before voting. The only one to speak at length, member Shavar Jeffries called the deals a “win-win” for the district in providing additional income for the district and additional choices for the city’s schoolchildren.
“These charter schools are public schools,” Jeffries said. “We have heard a lot of rhetoric that is frankly ridiculous … But these are public schools regulated by the state of New Jersey, and they are educating Newark children.”
Well, if they are public schools, why don't we force them to take all students and keep them, regardless of whether they meet the schools' "codes of conduct"? Why don't we make them provide services to kids with severe learning disabilities, like the schools in Newark that get mocked for doing just that? Why aren't tenure laws applicable to all of them? Why do they have unelected boards of governance?

Charters are not public schools in any meaningful sense. It's not ridiculous to say so. And it's not ridiculous for the citizens of Newark to be highly skeptical of colocation plans that they've had no say in.

ADDING: We haven't really talked about Teachers Village in a while:

You want to talk about charters and real estate? Let's start here; more to come this summer...

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