Star-Ledger abandons Newark. Again.

blogcamishavarThe Star-Ledger will soon leave Newark, making the city one of the few metropolitan centers in the nation not to be the home of even one daily newspaper. But, in truth, the newspaper already has abandoned Newark and there is no better proof than its shameful endorsement of Shavar Jeffries for mayor. Jeffries, as The Star-Ledger’s editorial board well knows, is the creature both of Wall Street money and the worst kind of  slime politics, the kind of politics that has made New Jersey infamous throughout the nation. Jeffries is the candidate of George Norcross, the South Jersey political boss,  and John Mack, the former chairman of the board of Morgan Stanley. Now he is the candidate of the fleeing Star-Ledger. He is not the candidate of the people of Newark.

The endorsement certainly is no surprise because Jeffries is close to, and supports, Cami Anderson, the state-appointed superintendent of schools, and, like The Star-Ledger, Jeffries endorses her cruel “One Newark” plan for disassembling public education in the city by closing neighborhood schools and launching new, privatized charter schools.

The newspaper continues to be held in an embarrassing, almost adolescent, thrall by Anderson who, today, the very day the editorial appeared, broke yet another promise to the beleaguered parents of the city, the promise that they would know what schools their children would attend by this week. Her plan–a gift to privatized charter schools favored by Wall Street–closes neighborhood schools and disperses students throughout the city. And this in a city without an extensive school transportation system. If The Star-Ledger was paying attention to what was happening in the city, it would hear parents literally crying about their fears of sending children across town to distant neighborhoods.

But The Star-Ledger doesn’t pay attention to the people of the city or its children. It ignored the heartfelt pleas of 77 leading ministers who warned that “One Newark” could have “catastrophic” consequences for the families of Newark and asked for a delay. It ignored the pleas from parents at the Hawthorne Avenue School that, will, despite its status as the most improved school in the city, be closed just so Anderson can turn it over to TEAM Academy that admits it cannot handle running an elementary school. So, as a consequence, it will be turned into a K-1 school.  All of this because of a promise made to TEAM that it can eventually have all the schools in the South Ward as an opportunity to polish its brand and enhance its fundraising–and building a portfolio of real estate for its profit-making corporations.

Shamefully for a newspaper, The Star-Ledger ignores the private business interests that link Anderson with Tim Carden, the head of TEAM trustees, and former state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf. It has not bothered to look into the shady political and financial dealings that attended the bizarrely named “Pink Hula Hoop” corporation’s purchase of the 18th Avenue School at a slashed price–the sort of thing that landed former Mayor Sharpe James in jail, a fate the newspaper cheered.

The people of the city knew the editorial board would not get over its infatuation with Cami Anderson and so, in the logic of the heart-stricken, The Star-Ledger would have to endorse Jeffries who, despite cynical attempts to distance himself from a woman who suggested children out of school become criminals, also has not overcome his infatuation with Anderson and their colleagues in the charter school business.

Two elements of the editorial are unforgiveable. The first is the total lack of analysis of the root causes of the problems facing urban schools. New Jersey’s schools are so racially segregated they are known as “apartheid” schools throughout the country. To fend off possible forced integration, the state embarked on a school funding scheme that might have ameliorated some of the problems. But, now, the state refuses to pay that price as well. So urban schools have been taken over by the state–and the state’s answer to its neglect? Privatization. Skimming the best students for the charters and relegating the neediest to under-resourced public schools.

Also beyond forgiveness in The Star-Ledger editorial is the vicious attack the editorial makes on Ras Baraka, Jeffries’s rival. No, Baraka is not a “revolutionary” who started his career as a protester at Howard University. The newspaper, in its news columns, has attempted to paint him as a dangerous man, using words like “incendiary” to describe an educator who successfully turned around Newark’s Central High School. It has called him “shrieking” and “angry.”  It has distorted Baraka’s willingness to confront gang members and leaders and somehow blames him for an increase in violent crime–when the newspaper well knows Cory Booker, the failed mayor and yet a  man it consistently endorses, allowed crime to soar by laying off police and not fighting Gov. Chris Christie for the urban aid the city needed to survive.

The editorial board may not understand this, because it obviously understands so little of the city it is abandoning, but its unfair and defamatory description of Baraka exploits the fearful stereotype of the dangerous black man who is a threat to white people everywhere.  The subliminal message is not lost on people of color and is so ham-handed that it certainly won’t be on the white billionaires flooding Newark with hedge fund money. For shame.

Clearly, Shavar Jeffries is safe. Safe for Wall Street. Safe for Norcross. Safe for the corporations that lust after the real estate in the city–and whose leaders know they need expanded charter schools to house the urban pioneers who will be enticed to move to the city, but only if the public schools are “safe” for their children. But Jeffries is not a safe choice for the special education children who will not be enrolled in charter schools because charter schools don’t want them. He is not a safe choice for the children with other needs who are either not admitted to charter schools or regularly expelled after the privatized schools receive their share of public money Oct. 15. He is not a safe choice for the residents of a struggling city who need a  champion who will defend the interests of the poor and the working class.

The people of the city will neither be well pleased nor well served by the parting gift The Star-Ledger is giving the city that nurtured it for  nearly a century. The people of the city deserved so much better.




  1. Incendiary, angry…good for you mr. Baraka! Maybe what Newark needs is someone with the passion for the city that will get them to incite emotion in others and get angry about the problems the city faces, rather than people that think an expensive plan with a fancy name will cure all of Newark’s ills.

  2. No surprise….but still nauseating.

    I hope, pray, and will continue to do all I can to get Mr. Baraka elected…

  3. Bob – assume this sprang from the mind of Tom Moran – he is impervious to reason and evidence, which suggests that something else is operating.

    Sadly, he comes from a home that advocated public education – his dad served on the local Board of education contemporaneously or just prior to my mom’s long time service.

    We came of age as the civil-rights movement’s dreams of integration blew up in smoke – controversies like busing and black power were too much for white suburban liberals.

    Ever since, they seem to have wallowed in a Neoliberal reaction shaped by white guilt and unconscious racism.

    We still are dealing with the consequences of that ideology and emotional reaction – as evidenced in the editorial of my homie, Mr. Moran.

    Sad, but largely true.

    Bob Braun: Yeah, I think you’re right. Remember the Phil Ochs’ song, “Love me, I’m a liberal.” White suburban liberals will send cash to safe African-Americans but they won’t open their neighborhoods–and they cringe at the thought of a man like Baraka who won’t smile on cue for the cameras.

    1. Thanks for the free psychoanalysis, Bill. Insightful.

      I liked you better in eighth grade. We had some good times then!

      1. Moran – yeah, 8th grade was great – we read Leroi Jones’ Dutchman; Down These Mean Streets; Manchild in the Promised Land et al.

        There was even a lesson plan in social studies on critical thinking skills.

        Teachers could be open about smoking dope.

        The Congress actually responded to protest movements, like Earth Day, with passage of laws opposed by Corporate America.

        Those were the days, my friend.

        I haven’t left them behind – sorry you seem to have.

    2. Tom – you can write stuff this – with a link to your Willie Horton inspired video – about Baraka’s father, but my reliance on your own father is psychoanalysis?

      “He energizes his base with an old-school black nationalism that seems inspired by his father, but outdated.”

      Bob Braun: I thought we were lightening up. Whoever calls Ras a black nationalist doesn’t know a thing about black nationalism. Why are white people so frightened of African-Americans who want for their children what we all want for ours? Why must these champions of greed separate those of us who are squeaking by? I have far more in common with Ras and his supporters–white, black and brown–than I do with the billionaire hedge fund managers who are buying this election. I worry about my future. About Social Security. About medical costs. It strikes me as totally insane for anyone who must work for wages to align themselves with those who produce nothing but financial gain from converting one form of paper to another. The rich and their blind supporters are going to want a return in their investment in Shavar–and it will come in privatized schools, attacks on unions, cutbacks in expenditures, interest on loans. Shavar’s supporters and people like them have been setting black and against white for their profits since the first slaves arrived in the colonies. They are still doing it and I got to be honest–I wish Ras was a black nationalist.

      1. Bob – I wrote the “lighten up” comment before I actually read the Ledger’s editorial. I was relying on your analysis only.

        But then I read the editorial and got pissed off, especially by the racist innuendo and the cheap shot about Baraka’s father.

        I found Moran’s criticism of my invocation of his own father incredibly hypocritical in light of that comment, and could resist piling on again.


  4. Beautifully written counter to the horribly written Star-Ledger ‘Endorsement.” I can only imagine that that the Star-Ledger will again be writing their regrets for this endorsement, as they keep writing for their embarrassing pro-Christie endorsement. Then they endorsed a corrupt man, who has been under investigation since the start of his 2nd term. Each week brings new revelations, and more embarrassment to the Ledger. You would think they would have stopped making fools of themselves after that one. But they didn’t, & they are making another whopper. We will not hesitate to throw it in their faces when this one messes up. Maybe they’ll finally stop trying to predict without having the requisite information beforehand.

    Bob Braun: The editorial board will offer regrets only if Jeffries is elected and crashes. I’d prefer the opportunity never arises. The Star-Ledger’s regrets about Christie did nothing to get him out of office. Yet.

    1. Christie will soon be frog-marched to his rightful place in a federal prison cell. It’s only a matter of time. The evidence is mounting, slowly but surely, & I can hardly wait!

  5. Well done, Bob, well done.

    1. Bob

      Question: Do you believe people of good will can have honest disagreements about school reform? You paint this as good vs. evil, and that strikes me as adolescent nonsense. I have heard the argument you present a hundred times, I’ve read a great deal on the topic, I’ve visited schools and talked to educators over 30 years of reporting on this stuff. I’ve spoken at length to critics of this movement, including your hero Diane Ravitch. I come away agreeing instead with President Obama on most education topics. Is he evil, too?

      When you move into the cheap shots about racism, then I know you are really out of arguments and just desperate.

      If I were you, I’d call you evil and corrupt and racist. But I don’t assign you ill will. I think you care about these kids as much as I do. You’re just caught up in a self-righteous rage, and it makes your arguments sloppy.


      1. Moran – the arguments here have a dynamic very much like that written about by Naomi Klein in why climate change is such a threat to the Right and Neo-liberals, see:

        Proponents of privatization and charter schools that parade under the banner of “reform” simply can not accept the legitimacy of the arguments of the opponents because they destroy an entire political worldview.

        Wall Street vulture capitalists obviously have no interest in the education of urban black kids – it’s totally driven by money.

        So, at an ideological level, this is not a good faith debate – it is about good and evil.

        1. And if you think I’m engaged in Manichaean thinking or conspiracy theories, consult the Powell Memo

          or the latest remarks of Charles Krauthammer:

      2. Aw geez, Mr. Moran, I thought you promised never to read this blog again…..and since it is hard to know where to start, lets start with racism – cheap shots? Sir, it is you who uses words imbued with your racism that perhaps you do not even recognize. You think from your perch that you know what is best for the people of Newark? (Gee, how did that go when you thought you knew which Governor was best for the people of New Jersey). In the 30 years of reporting this ‘stuff’ how about you really listen to what the people are saying? I do not expect you to understand what I am saying because you start from such a place of misplaced arrogance that you cannot see why people are so outraged. What you read here echoes and reflects the feelings of so many people – Mr. Braun is giving voice to people. If you do not like it, and you choose to insult it further, you only further the perception that you are so out of touch with the reality of people’s lives that your views should be irrelevant.

        1. Folks – might want to ease up on Moran – here is his email reply today (Sunday):

          “Am out of the office indefinitely. If your inquiry is pressing, please contact Jim Namiotka at

          Bob Braun: I join with you on that, Mr. Wolfe. I have taken issue with the editorial board and have never mentioned his name in my blog. If it appears, it is as his wish, not mine.

      3. Tom, a good faith argument requires engagement with the opposing side’s points. Simply saying, “Can’t we just disagree?” after engaging in personal invective — like your really nasty piece where you called the NEWCaucus teachers “liars” — is not arguing in a productive manner.

        Repeatedly, I and others have explained that the charters schools you tout – specifically, North Star and TEAM – are not replicable. This is a simple argument, yet you refuse to even acknowledge it.

        Instead, you have repeatedly engaged in the lowest form of character assassination against the teachers unions and their officers. You have repeatedly charged the unions with bad faith, even as you whine for civility.

        Practice what you preach, Tom. If the best you can argue against folks like me is that Barbara Keshishian once said something you didn’t like (but that you have never, so far as I’ve seen, printed in context), don’t pretend that you’re a champion of civility and reasoned discourse.

        Don’t like being bullied? Stop being a bully yourself.

  6. I’d agree with Tom’s contention if, indeed, this were simply an honest disagreement about what’s best for students. Unfortunately, it’s not. The school reform movement in Newark is designed to funnel as much public money as possible into properly-connected private hands under the pretext of caring about kids. The sudden influx of millions of dollars to Jeffries from wealthy hedge fund managers who wouldn’t be caught dead in Newark speaks volumes about the underlying agenda. Public schools in Newark are crumbling, lacking in oversight and largely ignored while Cami Anderson, at the behest of the Christie administration, focuses her time and energy on driving kids out of those schools and into privately-held charters. There’s a lot going on in NPS that you don’t know about, Tom. I wish I could agree with you, but it’s not about the kids.

  7. Jersey Jazzman also makes some cogent and valid criticisms of Tom Moran who seems to have a hatred for the NJEA and appears to be enamored of charter schools to the point of being blind to their real intent, the privatization of our public school system. Charter schools do drain funds and resources from our district public schools, they do not educate the same percentages of the poor, special students and English learners as do the REAL public schools. Why are we destroying our public schools? Why are so many very wealthy people on a jihad to destroy our public schools? Why are so many billionaires, hedge fund managers and assorted Wall Street banker types intent on replacing public schools with charter schools, school vouchers and school privatization? Why don’t they shovel their millions into the actual public schools instead of charter schools? What an amazing coincidence, Tom Moran and the Waltons both seem to agree that teacher unions are evil and must be eliminated.

    Bob Braun: I love the image of a billionaire’s jihad. That is exactly what it is.

  8. This is definitely a persuasive and passionate op-ed. I have to wonder if the writer has second, third and even fourth thoughts about his championing seizure of NPS by the State of NJ in the ’80s and ’90s via The Star-Ledger. It was rare to read any article of his that did not leave the district in a light a little less flattering than the one before. I am a product of Newark and supported the state’s takeover. I am curious if the distinguished author published – in print or digitally – a mea culpa of sorts for his stance decades ago on said takeover. For the record, I don’t regret my adolescent support of Trenton’s attempt to make Newark’s schools better. I do, however, regret our schools are no better (significantly) today under 20 years of state control.

    Bob Braun: I have stated repeatedly that I supported the state takeover as the next logical step arising out of state education law. The state is responsible for public education throughout New Jersey. MY assumption was that it would bring to the district–and the other takeover districts in Jersey City and Paterson–the funds necessary to make all state-run districts showplaces for educational reform. Some governors tried to do that, ending with Corzine. But Christie decided he would not follow the law and so, instead of trying to improve the district, he is auctioning it off to the highest bidder. Had I know this was the outco0me of state takeover, I would not have supported it. But one works with the information one has at the time and, believe me, the Newark school board was corrupt and politically manipulated. Certainly, no one ever expected the takeovers to last 20 years or more.

  9. I had the distinct pleasure of going to junior high with Ras Baraka. Even in the 7th grade (University High School magnet program), he was a spitfire and had an incredible, visionary mind. I’m not as informed about the issues in Newark as I could be, now that I’m in Maryland, but I know the thing that makes folks uncomfortable with Baraka is that he is willing and able to confront ugly issues head on and is a passionate advocate. This makes people uncomfortable. Change, real change, is uncomfortable, and Baraka at least has the guts to handle it.

  10. Tom Moran’s comments here are no surprise, but the level of his arrogance is mind-numbing: how dare he look down at people, Bob Braun or anyone else commenting here, and talk about not making it personal. Guess what Mr. Moran – it IS personal…these are people’s children we’re talking about and seeing them used as pawns in a hedge-fund manager’s schemes gets just a little personal, don’t ya think? It’s no wonder that you admire Cami Anderson…she doesn’t like it getting personal either, as evidenced by her using a comment about her not wanting for her baby what Newark’s residents want for theirs as an excuse to stop even the pretense of a dialog with the people of Newark. It’s just as Bob and JJ and others are stating it – none of the people wielding the power in this thing gives a damn about the real children caught up in it…and that Mr. Moran IS evil.

  11. Bob thanks again for your insightful commentary on what’s going on in Newark. I missed the SL endorsement but it in no way surprises me. It seems just another indication of an effort to further an ideology to prevent the citizens of Newark from gaining any degree of control over the institutions that affect their lives and make the city a ward of the state, where the rich can reap the benefits while the rest of us get the crust. It is a sad state of affairs that the newspaper seems to have abandoned any pretense of engaging in the issues affecting the state’s largest city in a fair and objective manner – especially on the issue of One Newark. There seems to be a pre-conceived agenda that dismisses historical realities and ignores the views of city residents; those who disagree are characterized as dull-normal heathens who don’t know what’s best for them and whose opinions simply don’t matter. It’s like the Guv said: “It doesn’t matter what they think – they don’t run the schools, we do.” I hope the your words and the voices of other reasoned minds get through to the electorate so we can prevent a continuation of the warped agenda outsiders have in store for my city. It’s time to come together to save our schools and our city from the greedy and politically ambitious. We are tired of Johnny-come-latelies touting plans for a better day who have heretofore been absent and silent in the midst of issues they now profess to be so astute at addressing. Ras has a passion for Newark and has demonstrated it over the years. We cannot allow folks who don’t have the best interests of Newark at heart to buy another election and further marginalize those who have fought for this city through thick and thin. Keep telling it like it is! Newark is not a prep school to groom neophytes with eyes on future advancement. It is a real city with real problems (and real enemies) that requires leadership that understands Newark and its people; someone with a real commitment to roll up their sleeves and get busy making change – not an opportunist with one foot out the door looking for their day in the sun after doing the bidding of outsiders.

  12. […] much of the corporate media – particularly the now ex-Newark Star Ledger – ignored the forces behind “education reform” in Newark, journalist […]

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