The financial crisis, as planned by the state, has become a political crisis in Newark

Damage control for Christie and Anderson
They call it reform

The crisis is at hand. The decision by Cami Anderson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie to run the Newark schools four years ago, to cut neighborhood school budgets by an additional five percent brings closer the day, predicted by a deputy state education commissioner, when the financial crisis becomes a “political crisis”–and the political crisis results in a decision to turn the entire district over to private hands.

Andy Smarick, the former deputy commissioner, indicated that was the state’s plan. It’s also the plan outlined by his then boss, Christopher Cerf, in his “School Turnaround Proposal” (Does that word ring a bell?), funded by the Broad Foundation that would create a special “achievement school district” in which all collective bargaining contract provisions would be suspended (Can’t do it, huh? Heard anything about the inviolability of pensions, lately? Public employees now live in a free-fire zone).

Smarick: Getting his political crisis
Smarick: Getting his political crisis

Anderson’s demand that every school in Newark cut their spending plans by anywhere from $200,000 to $700,000 meets  her needs–the further degradation of neighborhood schools that would allow further expansion of the privatized sector,  meeting the $70 million deficit she ran up through wasteful spending on favored consultants, hopeless legal cases costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the assignment of fully paid teachers to rubber rooms, and creating a pretext for the state’s approval of a seniority waiver that is still sitting on the desk of state education Commissioner David Hespe. If Hespe signs that waiver,  seniority is a thing of the past–and so are public employee unions.

Newark’s public schools already have been stripped of virtually every service and amenity that would distinguish them from the educational equivalent of an Apple factory inside China. Attendance counselors. Guidance counselors. Meaningful art and music and other non-testable offerings that create human beings rather than cogs for the machine.

And charters, by the way, are untouched by this. More money to charters, less money to public schools. More failure in public schools, more students sent to charters. The cycle isn’t just vicious–it’s racist and elitist.  The people of Newark will have to decide whether it’s every family for itself and to hell with everyone else–the charter game–or whether all Newark’s children are the responsibility of everyone, of every family, in the city and deserve a public school system that serves everyone.

“What’s really so upsetting,” said a source familiar with the meeting Anderson held with principals, “is that nothing was said about the dozen or so deputy and assistant superintendents who are making more than most superintendents throughout the state. Their salaries won’t be cut.”

Indeed, it was just those deputy and assistant superintendents who delivered the bad news to the principals at the so-called Principal Leadership Institute meeting Tuesday in “break out” sessions.

The principals will have to come up with new plans Friday for the coming school year, now only three months away. But, given that 85 percent of a school operation is payroll, there’s not much guessing involved what will get cut–staff.

“You’re talking about bodies here, not pencils,” said the source.

Anderson need not fear that her budget cutting will cause more hurtful chaos in the already trouble-plagued Newark schools. Causing “disruption” is a primary focus of the Broad Academy and its plans for urban schools. The more disruption, the faster the progress toward creating an all-privatized school district, like that in New Orleans–and the Louisiana Supreme Court reminded public employees just the other day just how fragile their rights are.

But, of course, more is at stake than employee rights. The Anderson budget cuts, combined with the continued draining away of public funds to privately-operated charter schools, move Newark’s children closer and closer to an educational wasteland in which only a select few will have even a moderately acceptable education, while the vast majority of kids–black, brown, and poor–will be warehoused, prepared only for lives of quiet desperation.

This is no drill. This is a crisis.

But, of course, Christie and Anderson and Cory Booker and their billionaire supporters and enablers will call it reform.

 

 

 

 

22 comments

  1. keith brooks

    well planned SABOTAGE, the same agenda throughout the country to destroy public ed to justify privatization thru charters and vouchers. newark just a stark and transparent example of how this works.

    • Michel Fiorillo

      Exactly, and when the Overclass can only enrich itself further by cannibalizing a fundamental public good, then you know how far the rot extends.

  2. Music Teacher

    I find it insulting that you say there is not “meaningful art and music…offerings” in the district. This district has a wealth of amazing music and art teachers who do amazing things with their students. How did you come to that conclusion?

    • Bob Braun

      Are you satisfied that the NPS provides an adequate amount of art and music instruction to all of its students? If you are, and can provide evidence, I will retract and apologize. Bob Braun

    • J

      Not only have art and music been cut but dance and drama were completely done away with in this district. The art and music programs have been degraded to less than the bare minimum of what is needed for adequate programs and usually these teachers are teaching over crowded classes. I had classes of 32 with no assistance and the art room was moved from room to room each year. No consistency for the kids or the program.

  3. Brick City Exile

    This lets those of us who care know that the Newark Public School system will be a thing of the past in the near future. The “neoliberals” ( Wall Street and Hedge Funds ) with their fanaticism for the privatization of government services are behind this. To them black, brown and poor lives do not matter much. What people in Newark want, think and need does not matter. The only thing that matters to “neoliberals” in this case disguised as education reformers is profit. The charter school system is an easy way to transfer tax payers’ money into the hands of Wall Street and corporations. The American working class has not seen a pay raise in years, in many cases they makes less than before. Domestic demand for goods and services is down, because people simply can not afford much these days. Good jobs are sent overseas or are automized and replaced by lower wage jobs usually in the form of part-time work. The American consumer does not have as much buying power as before. Now corporations figured that since they can not sell as much as before, because their customer base is poorer ( in part thanks to them ) they found a new way to make money directly from them without trying hard. The way is by privatizing government services and turning it into a money making scheme. They figured that the government is a new “cash cow” and are taking advantage of it. You see most Americans can not avoid paying taxes and usually do not have much say over how this money is distributed or used. The elected officials who have been bought and sold by powerful corporations and Wall Street look for ways to serve their real masters, in this case they convince the population that privatization is the answer to all of society’s ills. Once the people buy into this idea the transfer of the peoples’ wealth into the pockets of these very same corporations begins. This is the same with the Military Industrial Complex, the Prison Industrial Complex and now the Charter school complex. The narrative is always the same, one of fear and crisis. The military industrial complex depends on the fear of terrorism whether real or imagined. The prison industrial complex depends on the fear of crime. The education reform complex depends on the fear that the U.S. will not be ready to compete in the future and that people of color are at risk. If they really cared about people of color they would allow them to run their own lives and communities. Anyway most of these fears are unfounded and exaggerated.

  4. Jeff S

    Williams’ landslide defeat in the Philadelphia mayor’s race was a big win for anti-privatization forces. The difference there is that Kenny will not have a hostile governor to deal with. Baraka has Christie and puppets like Anderson pulling the strings.

  5. Gloria Marie

    I do not know how many times I have mentioned pay close attention to what is happening in Newark. Although Newark is the town I was born and grew up in, I am fairly new to this crisis, having become involved in it as an alumnus and as an educator. However, it has been obvious from the first moment I became involved that what is happening in Newark is a direct reflection to what is happening in the state of New Jersey. Yet, if you speak about it to those who live outside of Newark, it is as if you were speaking in another language. Governor Christie’s agenda for public schools is well known. Yet, voters heralded him as a great, take-charge leader. Well, the wolf in sheep’s clothing was obvious to us. Now, it seems more New Jerseyans are catching on, but is it too little and too late? I wish New Jerseyans would stop treating Newark as if it was a disease they can catch if going near it. I will say this again: pay attention to what happens in Newark, for it may be coming to a school district near you.

  6. booklady

    Let’s hope that the May 22 demonstration in Newark proceeds peacefully & safely. It would be magnifique if observers.france24.com, the French press that posted Feb 19th re students’ sit-in at Cami Anderson’s Board office, also covered the May 22 protest.

  7. Pingback: Bob Braun: Cami’s Plan for Privatizing Newark Public Schools on Track | Diane Ravitch's blog
  8. North ward resident

    Bob!

    Why is the little fat boy in Trenton protecting this lady? There is financial crisis in NPS yet, she is employing relatives, friends and associates and cutting the national cake among themselves. Yet, students, parents and teachers have to suffer her mess. Teachers and administrators are in EWP , now it is EWA, so, where is going to get fund to pay teachers the $7.00 an hours for the gullible ones who signed the EWA. I am a parent with three children in NPS. I am shocked that some SLC chair people are being used as Chief of Communication while Subs have taken ownership of their various classes. What a shame! Are administrators not teachers too? How can they allow certified teachers to do their jobs for them while our children suffer.
    We should all wake up from our sleep my fellow Newarkers. This is our tax money wasting.

    Concerned parent.

  9. Iqway

    Bob,

    Are you aware that they are denying parent appeala not to have their children in a Charter school via a random pre-recorded voice message. NPS does not even have the ethics to send a letter and follow their own appeal process. They are force feeding charter schools to the parents. Where are the rights of children being protected? This is beyond heart breaking break the brown and black low income children in the improvished city of Newark.

  10. mike

    “But, of course, Christie and Anderson and Cory Booker and their billionaire supporters and enablers will call it reform.”

    Dear Bob,
    You forgot to include Obama who has already voiced his support through Arne Duncan to Cami Anderson for this process as well.

  11. Roxanne Robinson

    That is why I do my job, well! No backlash. Newark teachers are partially the blame; hired to teach the students not degrade them lower their spirits and self esteem. If teachers did their jobs like those in the past the state wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. However the state (that set you up) is now after your pensions and jobs. Karma is a… and you can only blame yourselves. We already know many parents in troubled school area have limited resources, work more than two jobs (not always a fact and also not the point) and are less educated. So when a person takes a job to educate our youth, yes, it’s expected for them to go the extra-extra mile…

    • mike

      Hey Roxanne. Come to Newark and work as a teacher before you attack us. You probably wouldn’t last a day.

  12. edlharris

    Bob,
    Enjoy your work and coverage of my mother’s home state (Somerville).
    Could you provide a link to the description of the intended polices of Andrew Smarick. Our new governor in Maryland, political soulmate of Christie, just ensconced Smarick and Checker Finn on the Maryland State BOE.

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