Cami Anderson is winning


Chris Christie and Cami Anderson
Chris Christie and Cami Anderson


                Gov. Chris Christie and state-appointed Newark schools superintendent Cami Anderson are complicit in the evasion of  laws and regulations governing the regulation of charter schools.  Those are political decisions because they support the privatization of public education. What is incomprehensible to me is why so many organizations and community groups opposed to the privatization of public education in New Jersey have failed to act aggressively in the face of continued violation of the law.

I also cannot understand why state Education Commissioner David Hespe would delay taking action to stop this evasion of the law. He is a lawyer with an excellent reputation that can only be soiled by his failure to act to restore respect for the law and to bring peace to an increasingly tense Newark.

                Since November, I have watched—and reported on and written about—the growing discontent of the people of Newark in the face of Anderson’s arrogant and, I believe, illegal “One Newark” plan that, without the consent of parents, disperses children throughout the city, including to charter schools whose leaders exploit their private business connections with people like former state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf  and former Mayor Cory Booker to gain unjust enrichment from public funds.

                It is now June and no organization—not the Newark Teachers Union,  not the New Jersey Education Association, not the Education Law Center, not the American Civil Liberties Union, no one—has taken aggressive court action to seek a temporary restraining order to stop this flawed plan that will cause real and irreparable damage to children in the city. Soon, within a matter of days, it will be too late to do anything.  And  Anderson, despite the optimistic hopes of some in the city, now has repeatedly said she will not resign and she will continue to bury the city under the weight of her “One Newark” plan.

                Hey, guys—get real:  Cami is gaming you and you don’t even know it. Despite what The Star-Ledger editorial board says about her, she is not politically naïve nor tone-deaf.  She knows precisely what she is doing and she is winning.

                Cami Anderson is winning.

                Disruption, chaos and controversy are not accidental consequences of Anderson’s behavior—they are the intended consequences. Holler all you want. Sit in all you want.  Cami Anderson is not paying attention and she is winning.

                I support the parents and children of Newark who want to keep their neighborhood schools and force the state to abide by funding laws.

I support the organizations opposed to her and I can understand that some of their leaders might believe a successful court action is a long-shot but, at the moment, it is the only shot the community has. The failure to use the courts to stop the reckless behavior of Anderson—and her enablers in Trenton—only aggravates the frustration of parents and students who are increasingly resorting to civil disobedience because their concerns cannot otherwise be heard.

                I would rather see this fought out in the courts than in the streets. Not just because I believe in the law—but also because I am one of the few people engaged in this controversy who was a working adult when Newark was torn by civil disorders that left 37 of its residents dead. I am appalled that Anderson attends conferences and supports organizations—like the Broad Academy–where the idea of “disruption” is considered an appropriate way of speaking about school “reform.”

                These people have no right—Cami Anderson has no right—to toy with the legitimate anger and frustrations of the people of the city of Newark. No fewer than 77 members of the clergy have warned that her arrogance has generated “venomous” anger that might have “catastrophic” consequences.

                By what right does this woman from Los Angeles dare to threaten the safety and well-being of the people of the city of Newark? By what right do David Hespe and Chris Christie allow her to stay and continue to threaten the peace of the city and state?

                The law is on the side of those opposed to the “One Newark” plan. Both the statute and the regulations governing charter schools require them to resort to a “lottery” or similar “random” selection process to place children when applications exceed available seats. Anderson has told The Star-Ledger—another enabler—that a “waiting list” still exists and applications did, in fact, exceed seats. So a lottery MUST be used. The “One Newark” universal application plan is not a lottery.

                This is what the law,  N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-8, says: “If there are more applications to enroll in the charter school than there are spaces available, the charter school shall select students to attend using a random selection process.”

                The regulation, N.J.A.C. 6A:11-1.2, requires that, if there are more applications than seats, then a waiting list must be created and that is defined as  “the document identifying the names of grade-eligible students with applications to a charter school pending acceptance for the subsequent school year, based upon the order of random selection from a lottery following a recruitment period.”

                So both the law and regulations talk about a random selection process or a lottery. Here is what the website of the New Jersey Charter School Association says: “Any child may enroll in a charter school. If there are more students than spaces available, the charter school must select students using a lottery process.”

                I asked the association whether it believes “One Newark” complies with the law. I didn’t get an answer. This is what I received from its public relations person, Michael Turner, as the “official position” of the organization:

                “The New Jersey Charter Schools Association supports a blind lottery enrollment system, or any other blind selection process, that fairly admits students who want to attend a charter school so that they can receive a quality public education.”

                But “One Newark” is not a lottery. “One Newark” is not a random selection process.  “One Newark” is a “blind lottery enrollment system.”

                It is a selection process based on an “algorithm” developed by The Parthenon Group,  paid for with Mark Zuckerberg’s money via the Foundation for Newark’s Future and used by Anderson in a way that prevents public disclosure of how it works. We know from Anderson’s statements that she gives “preference” to certain groups—and giving those preferences makes the system non-random and non-blind and certainly not a lottery.

                Yet the department spokesman also said: “The algorithm used is considered a random selection process which would be equivalent to a type of lottery.”

                A “type of lottery”? What the hell does that mean?  How does Hespe know? Has Hespe seen the algorithm? Will he share it with the people who pay his salary?

                The whole point of a lottery is to ensure, not just that children are treated fairly, but that charter schools are not used like white racist academies in the south to increase racial and economic isolation. Indeed, charter schools may not, under the law, do anything to violate the “civil rights” of children and parents.

                How do we know that’s true  if the “algorithm” is secret? How can we find out except through court action?

                And  there has been no waiver of any of these requirements. According to a spokesman for the state Department of Education: “No charter school requested a waiver to include an algorithm in the lottery process.”  Statutes—laws enacted by the Legislature—cannot be waived; only regulations can.

No charter school requested a waiver to include an algorithm in the lottery process

                But this is what happened—former Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf—a charter school trustee and private consultant to Newark when he was named to his state post—allowed charter schools to “amend” their charters so they could participate in “One Newark.” This is after he conspired with Christie and Cory Booker to make Newark the “charter school capital” of the nation, according to The New Yorker.

                Nothing—I repeat, nothing—in either the law or in administrative regulations—allowed the education commissioner to permit charter schools to amend their charters to nullify the law requiring a lottery or other random selection process. 

                “One Newark”  is based on a tissue of lies and a deliberate attempt to circumvent the law. I understand Cerf doing that. I understand Christie doing that. I understand Anderson doing that. I understand Booker doing that. They are fanatics.

                But I do not understand David Hespe doing that—and I certainly am amazed that organizations like the Newark Teachers Union, the New Jersey Education Association, the Education Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP,  and other groups would tolerate this violation of law and regulations for as long as they have.

                Speeches at the Statehouse stairs won’t cut it. Rallies on Broad Street won’t change a thing.  It’s too late for that.    

                The parents and children of the city have  not been allowed to know how the system works—and the organizations that have the legal firepower to force Anderson to reveal how it works have done nothing but march and speechify and denounce.

                The time to act—not talk—is now.

  1. Yes Bob, Anderson is winning. If something is not done immediately to completely shut down One Newark, it will be implemented and it will become impossible to unscramble the egg. Anderson’s job will be done and she will move on.
    This is actually bigger than the destruction of Newark neighborhood schools. This is the destruction of Newark. When you dismantle neighborhood schools, you dismantle one of the components of the trinity of core stabilizing forces in a community. The family, schools, and religious institutions are these core stabilizing forces. When any of these components is eliminated or weakened, the community breaks down. When a community breaks down, a city or town breaks down.
    Sure, the city of Newark may still exist, but it will simply exist as a geographical area, it will not by any means be a community…

  2. Cami holds a hand of four aces. Those that oppose her are all giving lip service or have secretly made agreements with Cami’s. If the NTU really wanted to stop One Newark it would have sent in its lawyers into court to get an injunction months ago.

  3. Bob, thank you for all of your digging, reporting, and exposing… I am a member of the NJEA. The problem is that everyone watches out for themselves – they are protecting their jobs and their rights. Each teacher is worried about taking care of their own family, keeping their job so they can provide for their family. What’s happening in Newark is beginning to happen in Camden…100 kindergartners are being enrolled in the Kipp Norcross Cooper Academy – the name says it all. Can the poor fight the rich?

  4. Bob, I totally agree with your assessment and it is making me ill. I have done what I can to educate the families of my students about the One Newark Plan. I have attended the marches, the rallies, made speeches, e-mailed elected officials, spoken with the unions, and more. Yet, still the One Newark Plan is moving forward. I just don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how to get people that are seriously involved in the educating of Newark Students to get involved. I don’t know how to get the parents involved. So many people seemed to be resigned to just “accepting” the One Newark Plan. I’m tired, and yet I keep working and trying to do what I can to make others realize how destructive the One Newark Plan is for our students and Newark.

    I am calling for any lawyers that live and / or work in Newark and New Jersey to assist us. Please file something in the courts to put a stop or at least a hold on the One Newark Plan. If a number of lawyers get together and donate their time and energy to help the people in the City of Newark maybe then something can happen.

    I also call on everyone to write or continue to write every news station / paper / commentator in this country and make what is happening in Newark with the One Newark Plan national news. Only then, and this is only a finger-crossing wish, will we maybe have a chance to stop One Newark Plan. We need national attention.

    We need to continue to fight. So far, everything we have been doing has been disregarded. I believe it is because it is considered a “local issue,” but if we can get the national attention, plus an injunction in the court system to stop the One Newark Plan, then maybe we have a fighting chance.

    Despite everyone’s wishes, why would the superintendent resign? She has the support of the governor, a senator and enough big money to back her up. “So what,” in her mind, does it count that the actual students of Newark will be suffering?

    I know the buildings that are being given to Charter Schools by July 1st will be EMPTY former neighborhood Newark Public Schools, unless something happens quickly.

    Time is of the essence. People need to do more than walk, talk, write, sign petitions, etc. We now need to take this to the courts. Please help us lawyers in New Jersey. Help us now. Donate your time and ability to help us. Remember, once they come for the Newark Public Schools, and get them, your school may be, and probably will be, next.

    Thank you Bob for stressing the importance of this issue. I too am old enough to remember what happened when Newark rioted years ago. I also was in California during the Rodney King riots. I never want to see this kind of anger again, and yet my biggest fear is once September comes, if the One Newark Plan is not stopped, that this is what we are leading up to in Newark. Parents will see that their child(ren) are not accepted into the Charter Schools and/or are in four different schools. I fear that there will be more violence in Newark because of the One Newark Plan. I fear that many of the teachers that care about the students and work hard all year long to make a positive difference in the lives of their students will have gone or plan on leaving and going to other districts, where they will be welcomed with open arms.

    Readers, please find lawyers that can help us STOP THE ONE NEWARK PLAN.

  5. PLEASE—Wake up people !!! The crooked pols want charters for kickbacks they will give them. Fight Back or Public Ed., REAL Public Ed. is done especially in the inner cities where snakes like Mike Mutter will sell their own people out in a heartbeat.

  6. Bob, what can ordinary citizens do to help? I know a group of people, some who have taught in Newark and myself (grandmothers all) who know what is happening in Newark, Highland Park and Montclair and want to get involved more than just petitioning our legislators, (I’m sure our messages have rested on deaf ears), but feel helpless. Any suggestions? We see the future for all our children and grandchildren and it is frightening.

  7. Lottery.

    Let’s start there. This isn’t complex at all. Neither statutes nor regulations define the nature of the lottery. They stipulate that it must be a blind process. They do not however specify when, where, and among whom the lottery must take place. And that is where One Newark finds the loophole.

    Whether a human charter school administrator is rolling the cage in an auditorium full of anxious parents, or an algorithm on a USB stick is folding calculations in a cube farm of overpaid yuppies; as far as the law is concerned an unbiased force is still randomly pulling names out of a proverbial hat. And as messed up as it is, it is still all perfectly legal.

    If the NTU is reading, if the NJEA is reading, if the ELA is reading, if the NAACP, ACLU are reading; you all need to collaborate on a lobby to petition Trenton to pass legislation definitively outlining the following with regards to charter school lotteries:
    -Lotteries shall be held on weekends to afford families the opportunity to attend.

    -Lotteries shall be held in the presence no fewer than three quarters of a charter school’s applicants as to ensure the public full transparency of the lottery method and process.

    -Lotteries must take place in a venue that is open and accessible to and by the public.

    -Lotteries must be supervised in their entirety by an administrative agent if the school district in which a charter school is operating.

    Defining the lottery beyond the scope of it being blind or weighted is THE priority if we ever hope to, at this point do something meaningful.

    Bob, please amplify this point.
    Bob Braun: This is all based on the premise charters should be allowed. I do not share that premise.

    1. But you do share the premise that public education ought to be a resource, and a civil right ensured, administered and protected by the local government. You also share the premise that One Newark is a threat to the promotion and sustainability of the aforementioned. Currently, there are no measures to enforce the regulations of charter school lotteries. The way it is now, the lotteries as they are permitted are a first round draft pick. The traditional district public schools get what’s left over.

      I don’t think that the state of New Jersey is going to quit charter schools cold turkey. I think it’s going to take
      enforcing and strengthening the current legislation and regulations to stem charter growth
      the passage of new legislation and the adoption of new regulations to inhibit charter expansion
      regulations that serve to protect the public interest of education overall by establishing strict guidelines to deter profit-seeking ed reformers.

      I know you don’t share the premise of allowing charter schools. That is why if you do share the premise that they are expanding too rapidly, I would hope that you would amplify the measures necessary to reduce and ultimately reverse their proliferation.

  8. Hi Bob,
    I just wanted to notify you that a Title VI complaint has already been filed on behalf of Parents Unified for Local School Education on May 13. The complaint was filed with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, alleging that the One Newark Plan is racially discriminatory. Here are some articles and press releases from the filing:

  9. Cami can never be a winner in my eyes,she is a loser that has dragged Newark Schools to a new low.Whatever it takes she is going,I would rather see it done sooner without confusion but it is going to happen and she may be the last to know.Hespe is no fool.

  10. This week the board will get back fiscal control it is a step in the right direction

    Bob Braun: Not enough

  11. Cami’s NOT winning ! We’re just… as the saying goes…giving her enough rope to hang herself. Her career will soon be over. Good always conquers evil. Unfortunately, It almost always takes time.

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