State-appointed Newark schools superintendent Cami Anderson is cutting some 500 jobs, including 200 teaching positions, 200 central office employees, and nearly 100 non-instructional workers, including clerks and aides. The resulting layoffs will follow tenure and seniority laws and regulations despite Anderson’s apparently failed effort to obtain permission from the state to ignore seniority.
What really boggles my mind is this: Chris Christie says he is a conservative Republican and hopes he will take that ideology all the way to the White House in 2016. Conservative Republicans rail against what they often call “social engineering” by public institutions that try to ameliorate social problems.
Newark’s school superintendent, Cami Anderson, yesterday shrugged off the political embarrassment she dumped on Gov. Chris Christie—a national champion of education?–and stubbornly pushed her deeply flawed and unpopular “One Newark” plan. In a letter whirling with spin, Anderson tried to skip over the reality that thousands of city children and their parents were disappointed.
Ras Baraka, a high school principal and the son of a poet, yesterday easily defeated a Wall Street-backed promoter of school privatization to become the next mayor of Newark. Baraka’s victory repudiated the policies not just of his rival, Shavar Jeffries, but those of Gov. Chris Christie, former Mayor Cory Booker, and state-appointed superintendent Cami Andersonwho is trying to close neighborhood public schools and replace them with privately run charter schools.
This is not a burden they asked for, or even want, but, today, the voters of Newark go to the polls to decide the possible future of both public education and democracy as we now know them both to be. The race has become bigger than a contest between Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries. It has become a question of whether people or money count the most in determining policy of any sort, especially education policy. It also is a turning point in considering just what it means to be a Democrat or a progressive or a liberal. No longer are the predominantly poor and minority residents in the cross-hairs of crazy, right-wing Republicans who are either hostile or indifferent. Now the poor must worry more about those with “liberal” credentials who would pretend they care and they know better and, because they do (and have the money to prove it), they will tell the poor how to act, how to behave, what to believe.
If a city can be a victim, Newark is one. For decades, it has been the victim of an unfair tax system, cynical politicians, suburban dominance of the state Legislature, racism, greed, and a sense that it should be grateful for the pitifully small handouts it gets from the rest of New Jersey. Most other states—granted, not all—take pride in a dominant city. Not New Jersey and not Newark. That is why Ras Baraka should be elected the city’s mayor. With Baraka as its chief executive, Newark won’t be a victim.
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.
Charles Ledley as a young man working for the Clintons
Want to know who is buying Newark for Shavar Jeffries? These are the people who run Education Reform Now, the organization that gave Newark First nearly a million dollars that, in turn, Newark First used to buy attack ads against Ras Baraka in a last-ditch effort to steal the election from the front-runner. And to steal Newark from its residents.
Cami Anderson,the controversial state-appointed superintendent of Newark schools, has disappeared from the city for the last few weeks, fueling rumors she is planning on leaving. Her absence comes just as the mayoral race—in which she is issue number one—tightens up and her champion, Shavar Jeffries , receives huge amounts of campaign funds from pro-privatization sources to pay for attack ads against Ras Baraka.
A budget crisis—that’s what the main-stream media are calling it. A shortfall of $800 million in THIS year’s state budget that has to be resolved by June 30, a matter of weeks. But the real crisis isn’t simply a collection of numbers on a ledger book. The real crisis is the opportunity this creates for Gov. Chris Christie’s—an opportunity for a dangerous attack on public employee unions.