The Star-Ledger will soon leave Newark, making the city one of the few metropolitan centers in the nation not to be the home of even one daily newspaper. But, in truth, the newspaper already has abandoned Newark and there is no better proof than its shameful endorsement of Shavar Jeffries for mayor. Jeffries, as The Star-Ledger’s editorial board well knows, is the creature both of Wall Street money and the worst kind of slime politics, the kind of politics that has made New Jersey infamous throughout the nation. Jeffries is the candidate of George Norcross, the South Jersey political boss, and John Mack, the former chairman of the board of Morgan Stanley. Now he is the candidate of the fleeing Star-Ledger. He is not the candidate of the people of Newark.
The endorsement certainly is no surprise because Jeffries is close to, and supports, Cami Anderson, the state-appointed superintendent of schools, and, like The Star-Ledger, Jeffries endorses her cruel “One Newark” plan for disassembling public education in the city by closing neighborhood schools and launching new, privatized charter schools.
The newspaper continues to be held in an embarrassing, almost adolescent, thrall by Anderson who, today, the very day the editorial appeared, broke yet another promise to the beleaguered parents of the city, the promise that they would know what schools their children would attend by this week. Her plan–a gift to privatized charter schools favored by Wall Street–closes neighborhood schools and disperses students throughout the city. And this in a city without an extensive school transportation system. If The Star-Ledger was paying attention to what was happening in the city, it would hear parents literally crying about their fears of sending children across town to distant neighborhoods.
But The Star-Ledger doesn’t pay attention to the people of the city or its children. It ignored the heartfelt pleas of 77 leading ministers who warned that “One Newark” could have “catastrophic” consequences for the families of Newark and asked for a delay. It ignored the pleas from parents at the Hawthorne Avenue School that, will, despite its status as the most improved school in the city, be closed just so Anderson can turn it over to TEAM Academy that admits it cannot handle running an elementary school. So, as a consequence, it will be turned into a K-1 school. All of this because of a promise made to TEAM that it can eventually have all the schools in the South Ward as an opportunity to polish its brand and enhance its fundraising–and building a portfolio of real estate for its profit-making corporations.
Shamefully for a newspaper, The Star-Ledger ignores the private business interests that link Anderson with Tim Carden, the head of TEAM trustees, and former state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf. It has not bothered to look into the shady political and financial dealings that attended the bizarrely named “Pink Hula Hoop” corporation’s purchase of the 18th Avenue School at a slashed price–the sort of thing that landed former Mayor Sharpe James in jail, a fate the newspaper cheered.
The people of the city knew the editorial board would not get over its infatuation with Cami Anderson and so, in the logic of the heart-stricken, The Star-Ledger would have to endorse Jeffries who, despite cynical attempts to distance himself from a woman who suggested children out of school become criminals, also has not overcome his infatuation with Anderson and their colleagues in the charter school business.
Two elements of the editorial are unforgiveable. The first is the total lack of analysis of the root causes of the problems facing urban schools. New Jersey’s schools are so racially segregated they are known as “apartheid” schools throughout the country. To fend off possible forced integration, the state embarked on a school funding scheme that might have ameliorated some of the problems. But, now, the state refuses to pay that price as well. So urban schools have been taken over by the state–and the state’s answer to its neglect? Privatization. Skimming the best students for the charters and relegating the neediest to under-resourced public schools.
Also beyond forgiveness in The Star-Ledger editorial is the vicious attack the editorial makes on Ras Baraka, Jeffries’s rival. No, Baraka is not a “revolutionary” who started his career as a protester at Howard University. The newspaper, in its news columns, has attempted to paint him as a dangerous man, using words like “incendiary” to describe an educator who successfully turned around Newark’s Central High School. It has called him “shrieking” and “angry.” It has distorted Baraka’s willingness to confront gang members and leaders and somehow blames him for an increase in violent crime–when the newspaper well knows Cory Booker, the failed mayor and yet a man it consistently endorses, allowed crime to soar by laying off police and not fighting Gov. Chris Christie for the urban aid the city needed to survive.
The editorial board may not understand this, because it obviously understands so little of the city it is abandoning, but its unfair and defamatory description of Baraka exploits the fearful stereotype of the dangerous black man who is a threat to white people everywhere. The subliminal message is not lost on people of color and is so ham-handed that it certainly won’t be on the white billionaires flooding Newark with hedge fund money. For shame.
Clearly, Shavar Jeffries is safe. Safe for Wall Street. Safe for Norcross. Safe for the corporations that lust after the real estate in the city–and whose leaders know they need expanded charter schools to house the urban pioneers who will be enticed to move to the city, but only if the public schools are “safe” for their children. But Jeffries is not a safe choice for the special education children who will not be enrolled in charter schools because charter schools don’t want them. He is not a safe choice for the children with other needs who are either not admitted to charter schools or regularly expelled after the privatized schools receive their share of public money Oct. 15. He is not a safe choice for the residents of a struggling city who need a champion who will defend the interests of the poor and the working class.
The people of the city will neither be well pleased nor well served by the parting gift The Star-Ledger is giving the city that nurtured it for nearly a century. The people of the city deserved so much better.