Newark voters will decide–either Ras Baraka or Christie’s plan to close city’s public schools

Ras Baraka outside Weequahic HS. A real school choice
Ras Baraka outside Weequahic HS. A real school choice

Newark’s voters  won’t be able to stop Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to close and sell off the city’s neighborhood public schools and expand charters  unless they elect Ras Baraka mayor. That is not an endorsement. That’s not even an opinion.  That’s a fact.  Baraka has turned the election into a referendum on Christie’s privatization policies and, if Baraka loses, the governor and his agent in Newark, Cami  Anderson, will use his loss as a powerful argument to continue to bulldoze public schools in the city. Even if Baraka wins, it will just be the beginning of the effort to stop selling and closing Newark schools.

Baraka and the city’s public school supporters face a tough fight.  Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, the turncoat Democrat who campaigned for Christie last fall, will do whatever he can to stop Baraka. So will the rest of the  Essex Democratic party organization. The big money—from Republicans as well as Democrats, from Essex County, the rest of New Jersey, and even from outside New Jersey—will be flowing to Shavar Jeffries’ campaign to stop Baraka.

Jeffries, a charter school supporter, has been a loyal champion of Anderson and even doubted she sent out the racist letter last November warning that the city’s children would “get into trouble” if teachers attended a convention and schools were closed. The letter was sent out to thousands of city school children. Anderson later insisted it was “only a draft,” although it bore her signature and was printed on her stationery.

blograscampaignBaraka says he is ready for whatever the machine tries to do to him.

“I can take all the abuse, the punches, and the arrows—whatever—that will be thrown my way,” he said during an hour-long interview. He said his biggest challenger won’t really be  Jeffries but  the ”county organization” that has the money to spread around the city—and will be joined by the resources of the  Republican governor who worked closely with DiVincenzo and other county Democrats to defeat Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono.

“But I honestly believe the people of the city are much more intelligent, much more involved, much more engaged now-–and they will be able to see through the smoke and mirrors,” Baraka said. “Some of them will take the turkeys and the gifts  but do the right thing anyway. They know we don’t need the managers  and the lawyers and the political bosses to be in charge of Newark anymore.”

Baraka has received the endorsement of state Sen. and  former Gov. Dick Codey—but Codey himself, despite his popularity among New Jersey’s voters, has been isolated by New Jersey’s Democrats who see Christie as their leader.

Baraka, on leave as principal of Central High School, has led the opposition to Christie’s school policies in Newark. He says he is not opposed to charter schools but will try to block the vast expansion of the privately operated schools promoted in Anderson’s “One Newark” plan-–an expansion that will close at least four neighborhood schools this year.

The mayoral candidate said Anderson and the charters are working together, not to improve education for all children in the city, but to help charters to expand and “protect their brand.” The charters, he said, refuse to take over and manage entire public schools but insist on using public property—sold to them  by Anderson—to begin their own schools.

“They know they can’t improve already open schools simply by taking them over,” says Baraka. “That’s why they want to start entire new schools with only one or two grades.”

He ridiculed Anderson’s approach and insisted that, if she and her charter school partners knew the secret to improving education, they should share it with all schools.

“At the end of the day, if you have discovered fire, then you should share it, let us all know how to do this beautiful thing,” he said.

What is really happening, he said, is that Anderson is fulfilling the hopes of Christie and former Mayor Cory Booker to help charter schools increase their enrollments in large cities—because they have been blocked from expanding in suburbs by voters who can control their school boards.

“This isn’t about helping children—this is about expansion. They want more buildings. They want more real estate. I am asking—‘Why must you have all of it?’ Then they blame it on the parents. They say the parents are demanding space in charter schools. But parents are not demanding more charter schools, they’re demanding  quality education.”

If the people running charter schools wanted to help the children of the city, they would share their allegedly effective practices with neighborhood public schools, he said.

“They’re saying they just want the buildings. It’s this kind of passive-aggressive approach that I’m against. They go forward, they expand, and they watch other people get destroyed. Ultimately, if  this were really about the education of all the kids, they (charter schools)  would want to get together with everyone and say, ‘This isn’t just about how do I improve my school—my charter school—but this is about how we improve neighborhood schools, so we  have quality education for all the children in the  city of Newark. But they just want to expand and we have become the victims of that expansion.”

He said charter schools are creating a three-tiered education system. Suburban public schools that are democratically run. Charter schools in the cities that are privately run. And, finally, inner-city public schools where  the poorest children with the most difficult problems are isolated and segregated.

Baraka said Anderson doesn’t have “magic dust” to spread over schools to make them work and has “no magic tricks” to improve education. He said, as mayor, he would provide alternatives to Anderson’s plan and would demand the immediate return to local control of schools. “The state has had the Newark schools for almost 20 years, a generation, and even they admit the state has failed,” he said.

The candidate said he doesn’t really believe contentions  by Christie and other supporters of privatized education that what they are trying to do is provide school choice to parents and children in Newark and other large cities where schools have been taken over by the state.  Baraka points out that  the state’s public schools are badly segregated—a recent report from Rutgers referred to New Jerseys system of public education as “apartheid schools” where many black and brown children go to class every day, every year, without ever seeing a white student—and  many white students go to class without ever seeing black or brown students.

If Christie really wanted school choice, Baraka said, why doesn’t he talk about integrating the public schools in, say, Essex County, which contains almost exclusively white school districts just miles from almost exclusively black and brown districts.

“The schools are woefully segregated and the state constitution says the schools should not be segregated,” Baraka says.

Asked whether he would support a suggestion from the Rutgers study to create a single, racially integrated school district out of Essex County—in much the same way as counties run schools in  Maryland—Baraka answered:

“That’s a good question.  So are they saying  we could get on a bus and send our kids to Millburn? I would love to see what people  have to say about that.

“I would definitely support coming to the table and talking about how that would work. I mean integrating the schools is…a progressive kind of idea. I wouldn’t be opposed to it. So, if you  really want school choice, and these people are fighting for school choice, then allow us go to the schools you say are the best schools. Allow us to go to Millburn  and Glen Ridge and Montclair.”

He would insist on one thing, however. Residents  in other towns would not be allowed to give their public schools to charters if children from Newark wanted to attend school there.


  1. Good work Braun. We must elect Ras. Not only to save Newark’s public education, but to save Newark and NJ.

  2. Councilman Baraka’s comments about charters demonstrate an understanding of the inequities created in the dual system of charter and traditional public within a district. I will never forget the terrible feeling in my gut the first time I heard that charter schools proponents use the term ‘custodial schools’ for that tier of public schools that must educate all the students the charters counsel out. Unless we put a halt to charters we must address the inequities in who they educate, the enormous sums of money they get to purchase and renovate buildings (why can’t public schools have access to the same funds?) and the fact that charters, when they want, can pick up and leave. These issues must be addressed.

    On a lighter note, given what Mr. Braun has set out here as Councilman Baraka’s views on education, I can hardly wait for the SL Editorial Board to chime in…..

  3. Well Bob, I’ve been tuned in since the day Christie got elected – you remember the pic on the SL’s front page? Being a Newark resident I knew from the get go something didn’t smell right – anyway, so glad Ramos pulled out. I’ve donated to Ras, volunteered my services & ordered 2 gigantic banners to adorn my front windows (Vote Baraka – Defeat the Christiecrats) & a huge shout out to YOU for keeping us informed, thank you

  4. The impact of the Mayor’s election in May will reverberate for years. Hopefully the citizens of Newark will see the importance of a Baraka victory. This is the big one…make no mistake about it…

  5. 1) No more underfunding our public schools.
    2) No more lucrative land deals, disguised as charitable work benefiting only certain students, while harming others.
    3) No more Pink-Hula-Hoop-type beneficiaries.
    4) No more double talk by people claiming to care about ALL children while securing public financing just for charters.
    5) No more teachers villages built for TFA-ers, imposing inexperienced college students on Newark students, while the suburbs get seasoned, experienced educators.

    If Ras Baraka supports these principles, I’m proud to support Ras Baraka.

  6. How about…Newark voters will decide either Shavar Jerrfries or the status quo of our children being graduated into gangs instead of colleges.

  7. Ras Baraka is the best hope NewJersey has to save our system of free public schools. All who care should support his cause.

    He presents a serious threat to the pigs and hogs who control the spending in Essex County and in Trenton. Ready yourself Ras, corrupt political bosses fear truth and will be coming after you!
    Be strong, sometimes truth wins (even in Essex County NJ).

  8. We don’t need anymore ideas from the State on how to operate our school system here in Newark. Who can we walk out of office like they did Eugene Campbell in ’95 claiming he and the advisory board failed the children of Newark. Ras is our candidate for mayor and we have to support and protect him from the other political figures that has their eyes on one thing and one thing only…that is to get rich off of our children, break up local unions, and create jobs for their friends. The future of Newark is at stake. This other candidate(Shavar Jeffries) is already bought and is willing to sell Newark for his own political career. Reminds us of someone else…Cory Booker.

  9. I came from the public schools in newark and all my children and grands is now in newark school.. my problem in all this mess is what have the state done so great? They need the give a report for the past 20 years on how they improved the school. All the failurer came under them we have children that have become doctors, lawyer,ceo and the list goes on and on. I am not against charcter school as long as they are not inside our public schools. How would you feel in a school where one side have air condition and the other side have fans. One side have two teachers and the other have one. We are telling our public school children the do not mean a thing. So yes I support Ras 100percent plus. I beive he is God sented just like Moses to free his people and to break every chain that holds every one in newark in bondage. Wake up newark God is giving us a chance to take back our city and show the world that Newark is not for Sale.

  10. Joey D and Adubato are running Essex County like a mafia family. Eliminating anyone who opposes their political machine. That’s why they supported the redistricting that sent Democratic representatives out of Essex into Morris county. It didn’t work, so know their sights are on Newark. The Joey D reign needs to come to an end and that will only happen if we don’t allow another puppet mayor in Newark. Ras Baraka represents independent thinking and freedom from the mafia-types.

  11. […] governor and his agent in Newark, Cami  Anderson, will use his loss as a powerful argument to continue to bulldoze public schools in the city. Even if Baraka wins, it will just be the beginning of the […]

  12. […] Newark mayor: Newark voters will decide-either Ras Baraka or Christie’s plan to close city&#82…. […]

  13. I am a resident of Newark and my children attend Public school in Newark.People please pray that those in charge of decision making for our schools and our community,are being led by God that their motives and heart intents are out of love of people and not for the love of money in Jesus name.Ultimately we all have to answer to Almighty God and the love of money cannot save anyone,we need leaders that are motivated out of love of people and not money.I thank God for leaders motivated by love with the courage to speak against any injustices.I have been reading Bob Braun’s articles and so far I am supporting Ras Baraka.

  14. In addition to political goals of destroying teachers unions and dividing Democratic base constituencies, and rewarding cronies via privatization, this book lays out the larger social and economic agenda behind Gov. Christie’s school plans:

    Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities

    Discuss real estate with any young family and the subject of schools is certain to come up—in fact, it will likely be a crucial factor in determining where that family lives. Not merely institutions of learning, schools have increasingly become a sign of a neighborhood’s vitality, and city planners have ever more explicitly promoted “good schools” as a means of attracting more affluent families to urban areas, a dynamic process that Maia Bloomfield Cucchiara critically examines in Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities.

    Focusing on Philadelphia’s Center City Schools Initiative, she shows how education policy makes overt attempts to prevent, or at least slow, middle-class flight to the suburbs. Navigating complex ethical terrain, she balances the successes of such policies in strengthening urban schools and communities against the inherent social injustices they propagate—the further marginalization and disempowerment of lowerclass families. By asking what happens when affluent parents become “valued customers,” Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities uncovers a problematic relationship between public institutions and private markets, where the former are used to leverage the latter to effect urban transformations.”


  15. […] journalist Bob Braun writes about the race here. He views the race as a test of whether Newark voters support Christie’s plan to close their […]

  16. […] journalist Bob Braun writes about the race here. He views the race as a test of whether Newark voters support Christie’s plan to close their […]

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