The Newark public schools have been stripped of their assets by the state. The city’s children have been resegregated through a process of selection that leaves the neediest behind in the schools with the least assets while skimming the less needy students for charters. The people of the city have been stripped of their power to do anything about it and the ability to make change has been left in the hands of an incompetent superintendent and a megalomaniac governor who, once again, spit in the faces of city residents by saying he didn’t care. Chris Christie told popularly-elected mayor Ras Baraka—elected almost exclusively on school issues—that “I am the decider and you have nothing to do with it.”
Yet, despite all this, the ever-predictable editorial board of The Star-Ledger—now abandoning Newark to take up residence in Woodbridge–finds that any complaint that the state’s policy is discriminatory is “bogus” and that state school superintendent Cami Anderson’s incompetence, no matter how dramatically illustrated by facts on the ground, still remains “bold” and worthy of support.
The logic of its latest editorial on the federal investigation into bias in the schools is that Anderson did not cause school segregation so she cannot be blamed for the disparate impact of her policies. She should therefore be lauded for the changes she makes that, in the addled thoughts of the editorial board, somehow are making things better.
Let’s look at the problems with this, well, reasoning:
–As the representative of the state and the agent of the Governor, Anderson is, in fact, responsible for the apartheid in Newark’s schools. The law in New Jersey forbids school segregation. Check out the Jenkins decision: It requires action to end racial segregation—across district lines. Sorry—neither Christie nor his agent can say they have no responsibility to end segregation.
–Anderson’s proposed solutions to the problem, far from being “bold,” have created chaos and have led to the destruction of good neighborhood public schools in favor of enhancing discriminatory charter schools whose leaders have close personal and financial ties both to Anderson and Christie. There is no evidence privatizing the public schools in favor of charters will help.
–The disruption will be felt primarily by residents of the predominantly black South and Central wards while the North and East wards will escape. For example, preschools will stay in neighborhood schools in the North and East wards but, for the South and Central wards, the youngest children will be placed in old, dilapidated buildings–another way of forcing parents to sign up for charters.
—Research conducted by Bruce Baker and Mark Weber (Jersey Jazzman) at Rutgers provides strong evidence the worst impact will be felt by black parents, children, and teachers. The newspaper has not even looked at this evidence.
–What is going on here is an effort by TEAM Academy charters, an affiliate of KIPP schools, whose leaders have long business ties with Chris Cerf and others involved here, to show that it can take over a major section of the city’s schools, the South Ward, and, beginning with pre-K, build an alternate school system. With profit-making subsidiaries like Pink Hula Hoop, it can be in on the ground floor of gentrification, selling and buying property. The Star-Ledger has never once mentioned Pink Hula Hoop or the legislative demands for an investigation or the connections between Anderson and Cerf and Tim Carden, the chair of the TEAM Academy board. Dismiss me, dismiss Ras Baraka, dismiss the critics of One Newark–but how do you dismiss a legitimate news story and still lay claim to journalism? Does Chris Christie determine what investigative journalism the Ledger does?
–The wasteful and feckless spending practices of the Christie-Anderson administration—including 60 percent raises for inexperienced administrators, hiring cronies who were let go from other jobs because of unethical behavior, and a Christie-sized $22,000-a-month lunch bill for the school administration—illustrate the corruption and arrogance that pervades the state regime. The Star-Ledger news operation seems not to be able to see this, apparently because it differs from the editorial board’s policy.
–The state takeover law was intended, not as a permanent solution to Newark’s problems, but rather as a last-resort, stop-gap measure. The corrupt Christie administration has used the state takeover law to allow his political friends to feed at the political and financial trough. Quite apart from what charters can do for the likes of George Norcross and David Samson, Christie’s abuse of the takeover law denies the franchise to city residents, most of whom are black or brown. The state has now owned the Newark schools and their problems for 20 years. It can be said whatever problems exist now were caused by the state and it has failed to do anything more but to try to sell off the city’s assets to private entrepreneurs.
–The sheer chutzpah of a newspaper that is abandoning the city to leave behind a “Dear John” letter that essentially supports the denial of civil and human rights to its people–rights enjoyed by New Jersey’s predominantly white suburban population–is breathtaking. I wish the editorial board would write an editorial that accurately reflects its position on Newark without resort to euphemism. It would go like this:
“Hey, Newark folks, except for those of you who work in the Pru building and a few other temples to outside wealth, we really don’t give a fig about you or your children—we’re outta here! You all can drown in the polluted Passaic for all we care.”
Now that would be truth-telling, honest editorial writing truly reflecting the attitudes of the state’s largest newspaper.