The state administration of the Newark Public Schools (NPS) is expected to lay off hundreds of experienced city teachers and replace many with new hires, including more than 300 members of Teach for America (TFA). The report comes from union sources but is supported both by the latest version of the state’s “One Newark” plan and by the Walton Family Foundation website. The foundation is expected to subsidize the hiring of the new teachers. It was not denied by an NPS spokesman who said future personnel actions were determined by enrollment declines.
The NPS earlier had not responded to requests for information or confirmation or denial of previous reports that Cami Anderson, the state-appointed superintendent of Newark schools, will ask outgoing state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf to waive seniority rights of hundreds of Newark teachers. This would permit their firing without resort to the detenuring process. Members of the Newark school board, however, confirmed Anderson’s plans to “right-size” the teaching staff.
The Walton Family Foundation website posted this note: “Due to the impact of Teach For America’s corps members and alumni in the region, the Walton Family Foundation announced that they will support the recruitment, training and support of nearly 370 Newark area teachers over the next two years. This will undoubtedly mean great things for Newark’s students, parents and communities.”
Matthew Frankel, the spokesman for the Newark public schools, denied the Walton Family Foundation has anything to do with “One Newark.” The foundation itself refers to the Newark schools as “an investment site.” Frankel also denied newly hired teachers would replace the laid off teachers but, rather, would be used in shortage areas. (An editorial note–I frankly don’t see the difference, especially if the shortages were created by the NPS).
According to the union sources, Anderson will attempt to fire some 700 teachers and replace about half with new hires, including the TFA members. According to the TFA regional website, Newark schools already have hired some 200 members. They are usually graduates of liberal art programs who sign up for two years to teach in low-income areas and then leave.
Anderson herself is both a TFA graduate and an executive with the foundation-financed TFA, an organization that also receives federal subsidies.
The Walton family owns and operates Wal-Mart stores. Their website indicates the foundation has “invested” more than $1 billion to promote “reforms” of its own liking—including the vast expansion of charter and other privatized schools and the hiring of TFA members over conventionally trained ublic school teachers.
The mass layoff of experienced teachers and their replacement by new and untrained college graduates is part of Anderson’s “One Newark” plan that seeks to expand charter school enrollments, close conventional neighborhood public schools, and sell off school property.”Right-sizing” staff and hiring “quality” teachers also are mentioned in the latest version of the plan.
“One Newark” echoes the goals of the Walton Family Foundation which describes its role this way:
“The Walton Family Foundation invests in districts and organizations that improve the way teachers are selected, trained and compensated; close and replace low-performing schools with high-quality autonomous schools; and address weaknesses in the governance, management and instructional performance of public charter and private schools.”
Anderson is expected to announce her plans at the next school board meeting Tuesday. To fire tenured teachers, she must gain state approval of a “waiver” of seniority rules. Cerf, a strong backer of Anderson’s actions, is expected to grant the waiver.
Newark Teachers Union president Joseph Del Grosso said he expects the dismissed teachers to be drawn from the so-called “Educators without placement,” or EWPS, hundreds of teachers who, for a variety of reasons, have been reassigned to central office but not regular classrooms. Anderson also may seek to dismiss regularly working teachers in her efforts to break both seniority and tenure in the city.
Del Grosso said he expects the union to seek an injunction to block Anderson’s plans.
The full text of the response from Frankel:
“As far as your question this morning, if I am not mistaken the Walton Family Foundation is a supporter Teach for America, other than that I have no idea what you are talking about. I was able to figure that out myself by doing my own Google search, it took me .32 seconds according to Google.
“Like hundreds of school districts across the country, including Passaic, Paterson, Orange, Elizabeth, Trenton, and Camden included, Teach for America places great teachers in areas where there is a real shortage in Newark – areas of science, math and special ed.
“But to be clear – Walton has had no involvement in the Newark’s One Newark Plan.
“As far as plans that we are potentially considering for the future, please fairly note that this has to do with decades of enrollment decline…specifically moving from over 80K students now down to less than 40K. We simply want to ensure that we are keeping all of our highly effective teachers in the classroom for as long as possible.”
After sending me this statement, Frankel sent me another email in which he said I was a “bit off” with my story and I had not “framed” it “fairly.” He wrote:
“While declining enrollment will eventually force us to cut our total number of teaching positions, we still face shortages in certain hard-to-staff subject areas, like bilingual and special education. this is a fact. We will need to hire new teachers who are qualified to teach these subject areas regardless of whether we have to eventually lay off any teachers. As far as the ATF reference, they have been extremely helpful in addressing this hard to staff positions.”
I hope–primarily for the sake of the teachers facing layoffs–that NPS publishes hard numbers soon. How many will be laid off, how many new hires will be made. As soon as I have them, I will publish them.