A state administrative law judge has postponed a hearing on the litigation brought by Newark residents to block the state-imposed “One Newark” plan that has disrupted the lives of thousands of Newark families. Barring some last-minute effort in another court, the decision by Ellen Bass ends any chance of stopping the effort by state superintendent Cami Anderson to disperse children throughout the city and launch new charter schools.
Schools will open on Thursday with shuttle buses taking small children far from their homes, with special education children placed without regard to their Individual Educational Plans (IEPS) and parents worried about whether their children will come home safely.
But it’s Sunday–and, throughout the city and state, ministers and reverends and priests will be offering homilies. I wonder how many clergymen and clergywomen will be preaching about the mistreatment of tens of thousands of Newark children and what they might have done to alleviate that suffering.
What they still could do–by opening up their churches to the children of parents who are afraid to send their kids to chaotic public schools. Earlier this year, 77 Newark religious leaders issued a letter warning of the “venomous” consequences of Cami Anderson’s plan. They said the results could be “catastrophic.”
But what has happened since then? Nothing. Most of these clerics have forgotten their concern of just a few months ago. Tomorrow is just another Sunday–not the last Sunday before Newark’s innocents are led into who knows what dangers.
While I am not a religious person, I will take a lesson from one of the readings scheduled for services tomorrow, at least in Catholic churches, the denomination in which I was raised. The first reading comes from Jeremiah 20:7-9:
“Whenever I speak, I must cry out…outrage is my message.”
So where is the outrage in the face of the mistreatment of thousands of Newark children who will be transported all over the city in a transportation plan that won’t be implemented until the first day it will be used? No feasibility tests. No dry runs. No studies to determine whether it will work. Every first day of school in every community is chaotic under the best of circumstances–imagine what it will be like Thursday.
Where is the outrage? For The Star-Ledger, I wrote about education for nearly 30 years. When some suburban school superintendent tried to alter the district lines of one school to adjust for enrollment changes, the community would rise in anger and often block the plan. In Newark, massive changes and disruptions are about to occur–and, yes, there has been anger and there has been outrage, but no one is listening. No one outside the city cares
So, reverends, tomorrow, please pray, first of all, for the children of Newark. Pray that they will be safe. That they will walk through dangerous neighborhoods, across busy streets, and not be harmed and not be lost.
Please, pray for the children. Pray for them first.
After the children, please pray for yourselves. Pray for the wisdom to understand why, knowing that children have been sent in harm’s way, you will not, as Jeremiah suggests, “cry out” and let outrage be your message.
Let us hope nothing happens to the children of Newark. But also pray for justice if harm does befall even just one of these precious young people. Justice for people like Gov. Chris Christie, who knows how to buy friends, even among clergy, but who does not know how to feel for the city’s children. Justice for people like Cami Anderson who, by my measure of thinking, somehow managed to lose her soul in her strivings for personal ambition. For David Hespe, the education commissioner who, like Pontius Pilate, washed his hands of the problem.
To be fair to Hespe, he is not alone. This crisis has produced many who have played the role of Pontius Pilate. That, however, does not absolve him from special responsibility. Pray for all of those who might have done something but turned away, saying it wasn’t their problem or they had other problems that were more pressing or felt it just wasn’t worth the effort.
And pray for a state and a nation that allows what lawyer Bob Pickett–someone who is fighting for justice–calls “corrosive segregation.” The separation of God’s children based on the color of their skin or the language they speak or the level of their income. Because, even if nothing dramatic happens Thursday, we know kids are hurt by racial isolation and we know “One Newark” only contributes to that isolation.
We know what is about to happen is only happening because the residents of the city are poor, powerless and possess a skin color darker than that of Christie, Hespe, and Anderson. We know this would never happen in a predominantly white suburb.
I am sorry to have to say this to the people of Newark: To many of your brothers and sisters in New Jersey, you–and your children–simply don’t count very much. They blame you for taxes. They blame you for school failure.
Christie has all but said that the education of Newark children is not a moral obligation or a civic challenge. Rather he believes it is an expense that he would rather not have the rest of the state pay. He would be just as happy to see everyone in Newark disappear and just leave the gleaming towers owned by his friends standing.
The “One Newark” plan is a slow means of doing just that. The poor and the needy will be isolated and driven from the city. A chain of privately operated charter schools will be made available for the eventual gentrification of the city. The powerful will allow a small percentage of people of color to attain success but there will be no effort to save the rest from poverty. Their children will be warehoused.
And, reverends, I have a personal request. Please pray for those of us who dare, or make bold to say (as the introduction to Lord’s Prayer goes) what they believe. Pray for the writers who use their words to affect the lives of the poor, especially children.
I know I have failed to persuade others to end the horror that is about to be visited on the children of Newark–and I hope I will be forgiven. But at least I know it is a horror. Pray that the minds of others who dismiss this as a “conspiracy theory” be opened to see that they have been callous toward the children of others. Pray for those who believe a feckless Cami Anderson is “bold and sensible” because they don’t know what they’re saying.
I know of at least one colleague who is so blinded in his worship of Cami Anderson that he cannot see she is inept and arrogant and consistently unable to make wise choices. I don’t know why he believes that but, God forgive me, I do resent that he believes I will have contributed to the travesty when “One Newark” fails.
This colleague, a columnist and chief editorial writer for The Star-Ledger (a newspaper I served for nearly 50 years and deeply loved), contends those who oppose what he admits is an “untested” plan “don’t seem to give a damn about the children.”
Who would want their own children subjected to an “untested” plan? Why is it okay for Newark children to be used as guinea pigs, but not Montclair or Scotch Plains children? How can someone be so unforgivably blind and indifferent to others? How can a major metropolitan daily print such offensive rot? Where are the editors who exercise reasonable restraint on this man’s hero worship?
How can a sentient being write such incredibly stupid words? I guess I have to hold with Friedrich Schiller that “Against stupidity, even the gods are invictorious.” Those opponents are parents. If he–or Star-Ledger reporters–would bother to look into what’s happening, they would see the opposition is run, not by unions, not by politicians, but by moms and dads, by people who care about their children.
Yes, Mr. Editorial Writer, black mothers and fathers proud are about their kids, worried about them, wanting the best for them, working in ways you could never understand to help them. Just because they don’t live in the suburbs where you live, just because they don’t look like you, just because they can’t live on one job but need two or three to survive, doesn’t mean they d0n’t love their children. Please, you and your newspaper are abandoning the city and you haven’t cared about it for decades anyway (I know, I was there)–so why don’t you just shut up?
Please, just shut up.
You’re not helping. You’re just hurting. Hire your beloved Cami Anderson for the Montclair schools or the Scotch Plains schools if you want and leave Newark alone. Good luck with her.
I have tried to stop this insanity. I will continue to try to stop it. But you, my friend, have been one of her only sources of encouragement. You have gone far beyond the cautions of your profession in supporting, not the policy, but the policy-maker. Journalists are not supposed to form personal attachments to public figures–I certainly have not. It blinds you to the need to speak out when even the people you like do wrong. If you don’t, you do disservice, not just to the people, but to the profession as well. You treat Cami Anderson as some sort of civic goddess, an Athena afraid of the people but still worthy of your worship, when she is just a fallible human being with an irritating personality–and that, my friend, is just plain wrong.
Reverends, I hope you use your pulpit tomorrow to encourage a boycott. To announce your churches will be open to the lost children of Newark. until the oppressor’s plan is stopped.
I know most of you won’t do that, no matter how many letters you sign. But I do hope you will at least pray for the children of Newark. Pray they will be safe.