Baraka to Obama: STOP “ONE NEWARK”!

 Baraka goes to the top to try to save the city's children
Baraka goes to the top to try to save the city’s children

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has called upon President Barack Obama to intervene in the city’s schools to stop what he called the “disruptive and illegal educational reforms” known as “One Newark.”

In an extraordinary four-page letter, Baraka listed dozens of violations of state and federal law and local school board policy and recited frustrating local efforts to stop them. He concludes only a “presidential intervention” can prevent “further harm to the education of our students and the rights of our citizens.” He asked Obama to “act urgently.”

The mayor released the letter after an apparently unsuccessful meeting with state Education Commissioner David Hespe. Baraka had hoped to persuade the state education chief to mitigate some of the more punitive aspects of state control of the city schools. He mentions the failure of Hespe and Gov. Chris Christie to compromise in any way to ameliorate the consequences of the state plan.

“The state’s refusal to return local control of NPS”–Newark Public Schools–“to the democratically elected school board has usurped the rights of Newark residents to have input into the governance of the public schools in our city. The state has failed to fulfill the purposes of state control and our students are systematically denied access to a thorough and efficient education.”

In his letter, Baraka begins with the failure of the “One Newark” plan–an effort to close neighborhood public schools and launch new charters–and then goes on to violations of federal and state law and established school board policy.

He accuses Anderson of failing to seek any participation of city residents in “One Newark,” noting:

“This lack of community engagement is a violation of state and federal laws requiring parent and community engagement. There is broad-based disagreement with both the content of reforms being instituted and the manner in which these reforms have been unilaterally imposed upon the district. Newark children and parents are being forced to participate in enrollment schemes that assign and bus them to schools outside of their neighborhood boundaries, schools which they did not choose.”

Baraka lists the formal and informal complaints filed by Newark groups and citizens individually and his own efforts to try to persuade state officials to mitigate the more painful consequences of “One Newark.” He adds:

“Despite the consistency and severity of complaints rqised at the state and federal level, we have been unable to get either the commissioner of education or the governor to call for a halt to the One Newark plan, investigate the conditions resulting from the implementation of these specious and unproven educational reforms, or return local control.”

As a consequence, Baraka tells Obama:

“Therefore, it is incumbent upon me to bring the full scope of the problems and violations willfully being undertaken in the Newark public schools to your attention.”

What follows is a list of “violations of federal legislation and education regulations” outlined in the Baraka letter to the President:

–English Language Learners do not have appropriate placements.

–Students with disabilities do not have the services and accommodations specified in their individual education plans (IEP).

–IEPS have been changed without parental consent or notification.

–Students with disabilities have been enrolled in schools that do not have the services and cannot provide the accommodations required by their IEP.

The “One Newark” plan assigned children with disabilities to schools that could not accommodate their needs, Baraka wrote. Principals in some schools are rejecting children because they have special needs–or are telling parents they simply don’t have the programs the children need.

Baraka also listed violations of state law and regulations:

–The state’s failure to fund the school aid law.

–Public schools  converted into charters without meeting the criteria for eligibility.

–Charter schools not using lotteries for admissions as required by law.

–Anderson is violating state hiring laws by bringing on ineligible employees.

–The NPS using uncertified teachers or teachers working outside the cope of their licenses.

–Class sizes exceeding state limitations.

–High school students do not have schedules and have been assigned to classes they already have taken.

The letter also reveals Baraka had discussed problems with “One Newark” with US Education Secretary Arne Duncan–and Duncan apparently agreed with the then city councilman who was running for mayor.  Baraka wrote:

“At a meeting on March 15, 2014 in Union City, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed his own concerns about the scope of the reforms in the One Newark Plan, as well as the lack of community participation in its design. He advised Superintendent Anderson directly that she had too aggressive of a program.”

Last March, this site reported that Duncan tried unsuccessfully to get Anderson to slow down and she refused. At the time, a spoksman for Anderson called the report inaccurate.

Baraka asked Obama to consider Duncan’s “concerns” about Anderson’s behavior  and “act urgently.”

Copies of the letter–dated Oct. 1–were sent to Duncan, Christie, Hespe, members of the state Board of Education, state Sen. Theresa Ruiz, Assemblywoman Mila Jacey, Anderson, and Dr. Lauren Wells, Newark’s chief education officer.

To see the letter, click on the link below. That will take you to another page of my blog. Click on the same link on the new page and then answer that you want to open the file.

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14 comments

  1. Galton

    Reactions to Baraka’s letter;

    Hespe: Governor Christie, what do I think of this? What should I say?

    Ruiz: Joe, what do I think of this? Can I ignore it please? How come nobody blames Sheila for anything?

    Duncan: Someone call Eli and get my position on this!

    Christie: Taunt the mayor, we need a distraction. Too many people are looking into my “accomplishments” as Governor.

  2. booklady

    Will the hundreds of people who click “Like” on Bob Braun’s essays please phone The White House (202-456-1111) to state their support of Mayor Baraka’s letter and ask our President to act on it.

  3. Tony

    Doubt that Obama will listen when his policy has been aimed at pushing one newark type plans across the country. Furthermore the quote by Duncan says it all. He is not concerned with the destruction of neighborhood schools rather he is concerned with the aggressiveness of plans. In other words charterization needs to be a slow war over a decade to isolate people. Anderson is pushing too fast for his taste and style of leadership. But at the end of the day they are on the same team.

  4. Donna

    Going to Duncan first, and hearing here that he told Cami to “slow down” is mind blowing. Duncan doesn’t care who gets harmed, he is a charter school privatizing lover; everyone knows that. Obama…I don’t understand his going along with all of the public school bashing and privatizing and profiteering. Clearly, Obama isn’t the man behind the curtain making the calls on this. He appears to be a DINO, like Booker. I hope it isn’t to late to save Newark and cities around the USA who are under reformer siege for the sake of profits only. I hope Newark gets someone in power on its side, and soon. The world is watching what is going on, but some of us little people can only spread the word, the truth, and donate a little here and there to fund the truth and the opposition to reform. I hope Obama will do something….but the world is in crisis with ebola and Isis and Russia. Yes, life goes on as usual, and I do hope Newark gets some relief from Christie/Anderson/Hespe and the other Liars.

  5. booklady

    FYI see NJ Spotlight 10-16 John Mooney’s report re Anderson’s two-hour presentation for reporters at Newark Club breakfast on 10-14.
    Doesn’t NPS budget have shortfall? Who’s paying catering fee? They could use a school auditorium if not a Cedar Street room for the meeting. How many reporters went? Can’t wait to see the others’ articles.
    Bob Braun: I, of course, was shocked not to be invited.

  6. Source1

    A brave and wise act by a brave and wise mayor. It is clear to many of us that Mayor Baraka will not sit quietly while Anderson destroys public education in the City of Newark. Stay strong Mayor, and know that there are many out here who will continue to fight the fight with you.

  7. Tim

    “Baraka goes to the top to try to save the city’s children”

    If Mayor Baraka wants to go to the top he would have to go to Zuckerberg, Broad, Klein, Jeb Bush, Waltons or Gates!

    Look around, our Nations Public Schools are being sold out by Duncan’s unconstitutional RTTT policies!

    • booklady

      Meant this as Reply to your note “I, of course, was shocked not to be invited” [to CA breakfast presentation] but clicked in the wrong spot.
      Bob Braun: Well, then, you’re right. I spent those two hours with my grand-daughters. No question but that it was better and more honest company.

  8. NoShade

    No shade but Race to the Top isn’t the problem, and Arne Duncan aint the problem. The real issue is Krispy Kreme and his minions in Newark. Also, No Shade but this letter by Baraka is more of a publicity stunt than an actually appeal for presidential intervention. I have my sources who say that Baraka is actually looking to play a little game of triangulation against Cami and her chronies in Newark and the njdoe. All is not as kumbaya as they would have you believe. And so Baraka will make it appear that he is battling both Cami and the state but his true aim to show the state that Cami is too abrasive and ineffective in her role and that a more pro-Baraka intervention from the state should be initiated. watch…and see…

    Bob Braun: Hespe has been playing that game since the spring. I don’t believe it. He is gaming the unions and he is gaming anyone else naïve enough to believe he won’t keep Cami for so long as the Fat Man wants her there.

  9. jcgrim

    Duncan has no interest in enforcing violations of IDEA for SPED children. Under Duncan’s leadership, IDEA & IEP compliance is dying from death by a thousand cuts. He has systematically deregulated SPED compliance over the course of several years- tweeking the regs and starving the regulators. In 2011 he ended the Office of Special Education’s (OSEP) emphasis on compliance and now only monitors test scores of SPED kids from DC. This year he shut down every state SPED regional support center that housed experienced educators and compliance officers. Regional Support Centers sole purpose was to assure IEPs and best practices were followed in every state.
    IDEA has not been reauthorized since 2004. This is highly unusual as IDEA has been reauthorized every 4 years since 1975. We all should keep an eye on the corporate ed lobbyists who would like to open loopholes in IDEA to further erode protections guaranteed in a child’s IEP.

  10. Becca Field

    The letter to the President is a double edged sword. It makes a slight public splash but after just 100 days in office the mayor seems to concede that he has no power. The mayor should be looking through every single authority he has in the area of public safety, etc. to restrict the ability to send children across town in the dark on public transportation. He should be looking at creative, limit pushing ways to use what he has to accomplish something before sending a letter off to the President – because if the President does not answer – then what? It seems to me a last ditch effort but perhaps it reflects some behind the door conversations with the President that requires public cover.

  11. mike

    Who are we kidding, Bob?
    Obama and Duncan and Booker and the Democrat Party all support what Christie and Cami are doing, if not in style most certainly in substance. The Democrats and the Republicans are just 2 halves of the sane pair of buttocks here, sitting squarely on top of the people of Newark.

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