It’s Sunday–pray for the children of Newark

Will ministers open their churches to children? The way one church welcomed Christie?
Will ministers open their churches to children? The way one church welcomed Christie?

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.

Rev. William Howard
Rev. William Howard

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

Attorney Robert Pickett announces lawsuit against state-operated school district and Cami Anderson
Attorney Robert Pickett announces lawsuit against state-operated school district and Cami Anderson

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.

Christie and Anderson, breaking the law together
Christie and Anderson, breaking the law together

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.

David Hespe--stretching the law until it breaks
David Hespe–stretching the law until it breaks

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.

 

 

 

 

30 comments

  1. Becca Field

    How was the judge ‘persuaded’ to postpone?

    Mayors can impose curfews for public safety – is there nothing in the Mayors toolkit that could prevent this chaos? Nothing that he could do to protect the children? He does not rule the district but the streets and the safety of Newark’s residents are not just under his authority but are his responsibility.

    You wrote a very powerful blog here. I hope it brings about reflection by those you referred to in the days to come.

  2. Theresa

    One of your best pieces. Pray for the kids, pray for the parents and pray for the teachers! We need more people like you on our side Bob!

    Bob Braun: Thank you.

  3. Caroline Grannan

    Hero-worship of the powerful is so contrary to the heart of what journalists are supposed to aspire to — “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” It’s sad to see that level of confusion, or worse.

  4. Jersey Jazzman

    Thank you for this, Bob. I am also rethinking what I else I could have done or said to stop this. I naively thought it was enough to present a nearly unimpeachable case based on facts and data.

    I was wrong.

    You have been a beacon of integrity though out this ordeal. I thank you for your passion and for the great command you continue to have over your craft. One of the few positives to come from this insanity is that Bob Braun has brought his voice to the blogosphere, and we are all richer for it.

    There are two people you left out of this piece who need to be held accountable for what happens this week: Cory Booker and Chris Cerf. I have forgiven Booker for much because of his support of my good friend Marie Corfield; however, in spite of that good deed, he was the one who brought Anderson to Newark. He needs to own this.

    As to Cerf: like Anderson, he was never qualified to hold his position, and the children of Newark are now paying the price for his incompetence. He was personally involved in creating the blueprints for One Newark, and Anderson served under his tutelage at the NYCDOE. Whatever happens this week is on him as much as anyone else.

    Bob, I hope you and I are forced to eat our words. I would love nothing more than to be able to say next June that we were wrong. But I fear that won’t happen — in fact, I know it won’t happen.

    The best we can hope for is that the good men and women who work as the faculty and staff of the Newark Public Schools will rise up and save Anderson and her enablers from their incompetence by putting forth extraordinary effort on behalf of the beautiful and deserving children of Newark.

    It is in them that I place my trust. They are the last, best hope for Newark’s families.

  5. RINGOLD

    Teachers should go in strike if they are so concerned about Newark students and the implementation of Newark One. They can stop this and really put public light on the problem nationally. Where do the teacher union stand on this issue. They have been mute in this cause.

    • booklady

      1. If teachers were to strike, they’d be fired–which would please this Superintendent. She’d replace experienced people who chose to teach in Newark w. Teach for America “corps members” who have only 5 weeks of preparation to teach; are assigned from a national program, so they may not care about NJ youngsters. The district pays a per-teacher fee to TFA, I think.
      2. Last spring teachers were having action Fridays after school.

  6. Another staffer

    Bob, these kids are going to need prayers, every single day. If they are leaving at 6 in the morning to catch buses, they will be traveling in the dark. And many, if not most, of the schools have extended days now (another idea that really makes little sense- more of the same is not always better), so they will also not be getting home before dark in the winter. Very dangerous situation. What volunteers are going to be out there in the dark, risking their own safety? I wouldn’t let my kids travel in the dark in the suburbs and, I’m sure, neither would Cami. How will she be accountable? Our kids have been getting mugged in the daylight on the streets of Newark. Now they will be out in the dark? Disgraceful.

  7. booklady

    1. When we hear the name of certain schools or districts, a quick association comes to mind. For example, Central High School/Little Rock, Ole Miss, Boston district busing, Columbine. May the resolution/end of One Newark make for a better association.
    2. After reading your sobering essay, I visited the Newark Parents Union page & got a smile. Oct 1st is “The Christie Experience,” a mock town hall in Newark. (If a governor doesn’t schedule a town hall in a state’s largest city in 5 years, it’s pretty resourceful to do one without him.) Wow, Kristin T can sell autographs $1 a pop to fund-raise for Newark Students Union.

  8. Tired

    THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR NEWARK RESIDENTS TO DO THINGS COLLECTIVELY. There’s no more excuses, no more blaming other it time to take your children educational challenges to heart, no charter schools will operate without a student body. The Government is making every asserted effort to destroy, the very same union that help black American become middle class. Do not move a muscle. What happened to the money from Mark Zuckerburger which should have been a blessing vs this curse.

  9. Michelle McFadden-DiNicola

    Mr. Braun:
    You did as much as anyone could have to sound alarms and raise awareness. Short of chaining yourself to the Statehouse steps, you couldn’t have done your job with more passion and conviction. Thank you for educating me about the One Newark Plan.

    I will pray, as you suggest, that Newark children are safe and that they do not suffer in all the imminent chaos of their first day of school this year. I will also pray that Newark parents can successfully boycott the Plan. As a parent, I will also pray for the hearts of Newark parents, as I know they must be suffering under the weight of having little to no control over their own babies’ fate in this coming year.

  10. anniefromnewark

    Exquisite piece Bob. Unfortunately, a religious congregation can lose tax exempt status by encouraging a boycott or supporting or denying any type of political action. The even sadder thing is allowing charter schools to open with taxpayer funds yet not allowing parents a voucher to choose a religious school, under the guise of “Separation of Church and State”. I think this whole thing will come to a head on the opening day of school to a point that it can no longer be ignored by the media. Yes need need to pray, really hard.

  11. Educator

    Well stated, Bob.
    Have there been any updates from Dr. Anderson’s office regarding state test scores from 2014 (these are the scores released on Aug1)? I wonder if the scores went down? My sense is if they went up, we would have seen the press release already. Smells fishy.
    My gut tells me the scores are down and will not be released until after school opens.

  12. Truthglow

    Such powerful words for such a powerless situation. Yes, the Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran (along with the ENTIRE Star-Ledger which enabled him and did not speak up for the children) have failed the people of Newark, and ALL of the people of NJ. Don’t forget, the Star-Ledger also endorsed our horrendous, corruptive governor in the first place. We should boycott that God-awful publication altogether.

    I see that there are presently frequent commercials encouraging people to ‘enter the teaching profession’ being played on TV. I guess teachers are leaving the profession, after having been made scapegoats for government corruption over the past several years. Who would want to go through all of those years of hard study to become a teacher, only to be treated as punching bags by their government? I certainly don’t blame them. How very sad! Our teachers need to be nurtured, just like our children. What is happening in Newark is the antithesis of nurturing. It is SEVERE PUNISHMENT and TRAUMA. The judge is also enabling this trauma, and this should be taken OVER HER HEAD! This is what happens when a corrupt government goes awry. All that matters to them is the money.

    Since I don’t live directly inside of Newark, I don’t feel that I can give advice, but if it were me, I would PROTEST, BOYCOTT & SHOUT. The children are worth it. And, yes Bob, PRAY FOR THE CHILDREN!

    • booklady

      Truthglow,, If you live outside Newark, call your state senator’s office & say you want him/her to actively work to address this unconscionable fiasco. Say NJ can’t afford the unintended consequences or costs of One Newark. E-mail or call David Hespe at NJ DOE 877-900-6960 or 609-292-4450. His chief of staff # 609-292-4040. Ask for the list of people he said he’d name to community advisory task force when CA’s contract was renewed.
      I’m surprised Newark teachers didn’t enlist their siblings/spouse/parents to contact their state reps no matter where they live.

  13. DeeplyConcerned

    You’re taking on folks with nearly unlimited power and money…and you can’t do it alone. You’ve done a sensational job in keeping us informed, but real change will require a massive public outcry by the people of Newark, who need to stand as one for the children of Newark. Let’s give “One Newark” a new meaning — the unified voice of the parents, students and families of Newark.

    • Becca Field

      I agree with the need for massive public outcry and think that taking back Newark with “We are One Newark” would be fittingly subversive and desperately needed. I hope what is happening now is the ground swell that is needed.

  14. Pingback: Pray? No . . . Prey: One Newark, a Call For Action | Blind Noise
  15. Chanel

    Slavery lasted how many years and I’m pretty sure those slaves prayed everyday, the only thing that ended slavery was a bloody war and even then there was and still is oppression. We are dealing with evil on earth, the haves and the have nots. They want families to give up and move to another town so that they can “Own” Newark again and then they will say “Oh the charters didn’t work out lets go back to neighborhood schools” You rarely find a charter school in a suburban district.

  16. Newarkbluesman

    I have a rather important concern,Cami is scrapping the bottom of the barrel looking for busses,many of the vendors are taking busses out of mothballs.They are not inspected and are not up to code.This plan is a Score for bus companies and anything that can roll is being put into service.

  17. Pingback: Bob Braun: Pray for the Children of Newark | Diane Ravitch's blog
  18. David Pearce

    Get organized Bob! Dianne Ravitch will help you get the word out. Start a Facebook page called “Cititzens against One Newark”. Encourage Special Ed parents to use their advocates to sue the district. Get active!

  19. Pingback: Educational Policy Information
  20. Steve B

    It is both shameful and a disgrace what is happening in Newark to the citizens and children of Newark. Ms Anderson is a disgusting example of a human being. I hope that she is held accountable for the sins she continues to perpetrate against these people. It is extremely shocking that she is a parent, and would subject the children of others to these subhuman conditions. Cami Anderson, I do believe in karma…I have seen it happen to others. I do believe in justice, that eventually right will overcome wrong. And I look forward to the day when you are held responsible and accountable to the children whose lives you harm. As a New York resident, i consider the citizens of Newark all to be Americans I am proud to share this great country with, and you as a a person who represents pure evil and heartlessness, both to them and to our great nation. Shame on you, Ms Anderson…shame on your disgusting and deplorable actions against children and their families.

  21. anniefromnewark

    In quoting our President upon his 2009 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA – a part of the “No Child Left Behind” Initiative)

    “Reforming our schools to deliver a world-class education is a shared responsibility—the task cannot be shouldered by our nation’s teachers and principals alone. We must foster school environments where teachers have the time to collaborate, the opportunities to lead, and the respect that all professionals deserve. We must recognize the importance of communities and families in supporting their children’s education, because a parent is a child’s first teacher. We must support families, communities, and schools working in partnership to deliver services and supports that address the full range of student needs.”

    Is there no recourse at the federal level for the violations of this act?
    http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml

  22. DA

    Bob, As an educated Newarker and parent I am grateful for your fair, research based, and honest reporting! In my lifetime I never thought that in such a diverse state and city so much blatant racism has occurred and directly have harmed Latino and African American children. This has gone far beyond just prayer this is now the Art of War tactics required! The Senator has an opponent conservative or liberal we must learn to play their systemic racism and power game. It is time for Newark Parents Union to gain national and diverse support in order to fight not just in advocacy but via every legal avenue we can i.e.: Pro-bono lawyers! As for my fellow Latino parents it is time to educate these parents too; many have not had a real clue until the enrollment chaos! Its time to strategize and bring collective minds together to fight many huge villians. We have NJIT, Rutgers, Seton Hall Law School, UMDNJ, and Essex County College professionals who come and work in our but never feel they owe anything to the residents and City of Newark. These professional also should be pulled in this fight for the children. I emplore everyone to support our cause, Newark has produced many great educated people! Lets fight for many of the defenseless: OUR CHILDREN!

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