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, November 30, 2012

An Outrage in Camden

Yesterday, I posted about the Camden Board of Education's reversal of their previous vote, which now allows the national charter management group KIPP to come into the city and take over a plot of land that was already designated to become a public school.

What I don't think I conveyed well, however, is how truly outrageous this entire plan is:
During the almost three-hour closed meeting, representatives of KIPP and the Cooper Foundation went in to explain their proposal. The dialogue consisted of "a lot of explaining and clarifying . . . and some 'We'll have to get back to you,' " board member Sean Brown said. 
Brown, who earlier voted against the KIPP proposal, said he switched because he believed the state would never build the long-promised Lanning Square public school. The state "will do whatever they can so it doesn't happen," he said. "And they have the power." [emphasis mine]
A little history is in order here: in 2004, the Lanning Square Elementary School was a crumbling safety hazard. Students were displaced into two other schools while the state got ready to build a brand new school at the site. Over the next several years, the state spent $10  million to get the project "shovel ready." For years, the people of the community waited and waited for the state to fulfill its promise and build their children a new school.

Unfortunately for them, Lanning Square is a plot of land right next to the Cooper Medical School, part of the empire of South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross. Norcross (like most wealthy Democrats these days, it seems) is an unabashed charter school cheerleader - and what Norcross wants, Norcross gets.

So, thanks to machine politics and what appears to be deliberate dithering on the part of the state, KIPP will soon be firmly ensconced in Camden. Never mind that KIPP has already tried and failed there; never mind that the KIPP schools have a reputation for engaging in high rates of student attrition - particularly with black students.

Thanks to a small group of powerful people, some of the children of Camden - those whose parents are willing to immerse them in a "no excuses" culture - will get a new school. The promises made by the state to the remaining families of Camden, however, are casually brushed in favor of the whims of the elite. And the children KIPP admits they simply won't serve are left begging, with only a few local voices left to speak for them:
Former Lanning Square principal Elsa Suarez called the long stall of the Lanning Square public school plan "a crime."
Board President Kathryn Blackshear said she was voting in favor of the KIPP proposal because "I know this school board will never have money to build a Lanning Square school." 
Some in the audience then started shouting in protest. 
My word, how uncivilized. It's as if these people in Camden actually want to have a say in how their community will educate its kids. They don't really think they know better than the wealthy and powerful who don't even live in their city, do they?

ADDING: Mother Crusader has much, much more.

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