State policy in Newark: Racism. Face it.

Cami Anderson
Cami Anderson

The eighth-grade graduation ceremonies at the Hawthorne Avenue School this morning–the last of their kind–provided an island of sanity and goodwill in the ocean of madness that is state educational policy in Newark. One of the best-achieving schools, not just in the city, but also in the state, has ben stripped of its leadership, declared a failure, and is ready to be turned over to Chris Christie’s corporate wolves who devour the poor and what little they have. Parents and teachers and even some students shook their heads and wondered how this could happen. There is an explanation. It’s called racism.

Racism.

Racism. The implementation of policy based on race–implemented in such a way that members of a dominant race realize an advantage over members of a less powerful one. Just 12 hours before the graduation ceremony, Deborah Gregory Smith appeared at yet another useless school board meeting and used the word. Racism.

“I know I have been told not to use the race card,” said the head of the Newark NAACP. But she did. Giving Cami Anderson another contract, she said, was racist. Gov. Christie, who refuses to come to Newark to face the people his family ran from 30 years ago, is racist.

“That is racism,” she said. And she is right.

What else do you call it when Lamont Thomas, the principal of one of the most spectacularly achieving high schools in the country (yes, I said country)–Science Park–gets a “partially effective” evaluation, probably because his students were the core of the Newark Student Union? What else do you call it when Regina Sharpe, the principal of the highly successful University High School, is fired?

Racism. I call it racism. Anderson certainly hasn’t offered any alternative explanations.

Racism. General and specific. Generally, not following the law to insist that New Jersey schools be integrated. Not following the law to insist that New Jersey schools be fully funded. Not following the law to provide decent jobs, housing, and health care in areas that are predominantly black and brown. Not following the law and allowing a return to local control. Not following the law and allowing Newark to become, in the words of Cory Booker, the “charter school capital of America.”

And here are the specifics in Newark:

Let’s face facts. Cami Anderson is a white woman living the life of white advantage thanks to her $300,000 salary and to her friends in Montclair and Glen Ridge like the Plofkers and the Cardens and the Cerfs. Her sponsors and bosses, Chris Cerf and Chris Christie and David Hespe, are white men, also well advantaged, enjoying the advantages provided by the politics of racism to help ensure their maintenance of power.

Oh, yes, I know. Cami has a black domestic partner and an inter-racial child. Does that excuse her from implementing policies that help advantaged whites–like her friends in the charter movement and Teach for America–to the detriment of disadvantaged people of color? Does anyone remember Strom Thurmond? He had a black domestic partner and an interracial child, too.

So what has Cami done? She has fired strong black school leaders–she has suspended, humiliated and then fired men and women like H. Grady James IV who should be the leadership core of a newly independent Newark school district. She has ignored the wishes of scores of black ministers who pleaded with her months ago to think of the children and suspend “One Newark.” She has defied the political will of the predominantly black and brown city of Newark as illustrated in the election of Ras Baraka as mayor–she even asked white-dominated foundations in Newark for money to promote her “One Newark” in the middle of the campaign.

Her “One Newark” plan, as has been shown  by clear and convincing evidence, disproportionately hurts black and brown school employees. It trifles with the lives of the poor and people of color by dispersing them out of their neighborhoods and sending them to unfamiliar areas. Indeed, it destroys neighborhoods that, in the face of the historic assault of racism on the poor, provided havens of support and centers of political strength.

Cami Anderson is out to destroy public education, an institution that, more than any other, contributed to the gains made by poor people of color. It wasn’t places like Christie’s Delbarton–and it wasn’t charter schools.

I know I am white. I know I take a risk by going beyond what some in the  black leadership of the city are willing to do or say. But I will do it anyway because, what the hell, no nervous editor is going to stop me. I’m the only person who can fire me now.

And, besides,  it’s true. State policy in Newark is racist.

State Education Commissioner David Hespe’s offer of a new contract to Cami Anderson despite her assault on the people of Newark was an unforgiveably racist act.

(Hespe and Anderson are trying to spin the new contract as a defeat for Cami–she’s even saying she will only be an “advisory” superintendent. The only act more shameful than putting out this lie is believing it.)

The firing of successful black adminstrators is a racist act.

The dismissal of the achievements of the Hawthorne Avenue School and other improving schools and the firing of their staffs are racist acts.

“One Newark” is a racist policy.

Without racism, none of this would happen.

Racism. Face it. Deal with it. Stop running from it.

 

 

 

17 comments

  1. Lisa Parker

    This is Racism because you will not find a charter school in any suburban district in the state. Racism because to date there has not been an investigation of Corey Booker’s misappropriation of funding leaving the city in a deficit of 93 million and 2 billion in municipal bonds to support redevelopment including charter schools; when he took office the city was in a surplus. Racism because the people in Washington not Trenton has not stepped in to address the concerns of Newark teachers, family, advocate groups and children.

    Bob Braun: There are a few charter schools in some suburbs, including Princeton, but, for the last two or three years the state has concentrated on growing charters in the cities–and the reason smacks of racism as well. Suburban parents objected to charters in their towns and, as a consequence, Christie stopped putting them there. He doesn’t care what people in the cities say–he has said that–and that is why he can get away with what he is doing.

    • Tim

      Bob,
      Mean time in Camden!

      I’m sure you caught this:
      http://articles.philly.com/2014-06-25/news/50859070_1_tax-credits-lanning-square-school-construction
      This kind of reminds one of when Sweeney tried to rewrite the Health benefit package to include only in State benefits!

      We no longer have Political Parties representing the citizens! It is all about the money, who can rob the most to benefit themselves!

      I know that this has been going on for years, with big business buying politicians to increase their profits! The BIG difference now is that they are doing this and at the same time destroying Public Education. They are destroying our future generations Education!

  2. Source1

    Bob,
    You are right on the money. Screaming at board meetings is not going to do it. Unless there is some form of civil disobedience, nothing will change. And the focus of that disobedience has to be Prudential. Prudential represents the funders behind the destruction of Newark and up to this point Prudential has been very successful remaining out of the limelight. It is time to shine the light where it belongs.

    We can scream Cami’s name, we can scream Hespe’s name, and we can continue to scream Christie’s name. To continue to scream without real action is a useless endeavor.

    Bob Braun: The invisible, guiding hand–Prudential, the organization that hopes for the eventual gentrification of Newark where all the white and rich children can attend charters and the poor, black and brown children can remain in the few, under-resourced public schools run by frightened administrators and staffed by demoralized, underpaid, and insecure teachers whose union contract has been reduced to a nullity. What a vision for the future! Exactly what Pru wants.

  3. Janet Mandel

    I would love to hear Ta-Nehisi Coates’ take on this. If he doesn’t know what is going on in Newark, he needs to.

  4. Joe

    Yes, there is a charter school in Princeton, Princeton Charter School (http://pcs.k12.nj.us/). It does NOT have the same percentage of special ed kids/kids with special needs, poor kids (there are some poor folks in Princeton) and English language learners. Bruce Baker does a better job showing that PCS ends up being an elite private school draining funds and resources from the public schools.
    From Bruce Baker: “Notably, in Princeton the lowest poverty “public” school is Princeton Charter School. Princeton Public Schools each have much higher rates of children qualified for free or reduced priced lunch.”
    https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/segregating-suburbia/ Isn’t that nice, an elite private school funded with public tax dollars. (sarcasm alert)

  5. Michael Fiorillo

    A very powerful piece, Bob, thank you.

    I especially appreciated the Strom Thurmond reference. I have a personal story about how Anderson is as repulsive as Thurmond, but in a different way that is more in keeping with the times.

    My wife worked in NYC’s District 79, which made up the alternative high schools, when Joel Klein appointed her to “disrupt” the district, which she duly did. My wife commented at the time that Anderson, when appearing before the teachers to sell herself, gushed more than once about her African-American partner, as if he was a medal or prop used to provide credibility for the misdeeds she was about to commit.

    Thurmond hid his black domestic partner and interracial child for many years; Anderson, equally hypocritical, rhetorically parades hers while doing violence to the children, teachers and city of Newark. Shameless, shameful liars, both.

  6. Zinn@heart

    About time Bob, I’m white too, n it’s been obvious. They don’t care. What do we do when they don’t listen. When enough are sick n tired of being sick n tired, We fight! Thnx for fighting.

  7. WareIT

    And the race-based attack on public education extends from Newark across the U.S. Public education has reached the tipping point, more than 30% of students are non-white, where the justifications for under-resourcing schools kicks in in consciously and unconsciously racist ways. All “men” may be “created equal,” but racism makes sure that some have real and/or perceived advantage. It’s time for another Freedom Summer, time to wake from the “color-blind” society sedative!

  8. Sue

    I am a white teacher within the Newark Public Schools and it is racism. When a (white) colleague and I used to see groups of white men and women walking around our building, they were always from charter schools. Then Cami Anderson closed us down and sold our building to a charter for a million less than it was worth. She sold the building with a huge playground, parking lot, and was attached to a new public park. She moved most of the students to the building with a small playground, not attached to a park, on a busy road (Bergen Street), no parking (it is important to have somewhere to park), and not enough room for all the students.
    She is a racist, doing everything she can to destroy public education and make her white friends rich/richer.

  9. Teacher

    I am white.

    I am a Newark Public Schools teacher.

    I am fed up with the blatant and insidious racism.

    I am tired of every time I open my mouth to say something being told that I don’t know what I am talking about.

    I am exasperated at being moved from school to school like a sack of potatoes.

    Yes, I am older than a TFA.

    Yes, I have graduate credits.

    Yes, I know I am not wanted.

    I have only one question.

    Cami and your minions, who anointed you to be my Masters?

    Bob Braun: I am so sorry for how you feel. A friend of mine, a labor lawyer, would call the abuse employees received from their bosses “a little death.” We are expected to invest all of what we have into doing a good job and then, for reasons unrelated to how well we do that job, we get treated as if we do not matter. We were raised, most of us, to work hard, to obey authority, to do more than what is expected of us. This contemptuous attitude toward employees began in the private sector and has even been formally established as disruption theory. The thought is employees really don’t matter–they are interchangeable. the only people who matter are a cadre of management flunkies who keep us in line. The first thing we have to do is get over the idea that there is something wrong with us, that we’re not doing a good job. Just staying on the job is evidence teachers love what they do–who else would do it except those who love it? Then we have to get over the fear of management retaliation. It will come but management can’t strike back at everyone. Union members and community members have to find common ground–at least now in this time of crisis–because, if they don’t, no one wins but Cami and her snotty ideologues. Enjoy your summer. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it. The war will be going on in September.

  10. Bill Wolfe

    Gov. Christie bragged about his own family’s racist white flight from Newark.

    That was racist then to flee Newark and racist now to brag about it..

    It is racist now to do nothing to ameliorate racist segregation but instead compound it and politically profit from it.

  11. Pingback: Bob Braun: State Policy in Newark Is Racist. Period. | Diane Ravitch's blog
  12. Dan

    Thanks for your voice Bob.

    You’re completely correct on the issue of blatant Racism in education reform.
    But I also lay the blame on Washington and the DOE, not just the NJ DOE. If you look at Chicago and what Rahm Emaunel is doing, it makes Cami look sort of tame. And peculiar as it is, Rahm was and is an Obama guy. So there are all sorts of weird and paradoxical problems with racism in education reform. I am disheartened with the lack of political support. I think and I hope that the ingredients for a new Civil Rights movement can be formed. The ingredients for labor rights and a renewal of the fight against racial injustice are all in place. What is needed is a catalyst to unite labor, people of color, and the majority of white people who care and want justice. I was hoping Obama would be or could be that sort of leader. Historically however such leadership has not emerged from the elected. It will emerge from the rank and file or from clergy but not from the elected.

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