Suspicions are deep that the “One Newark” plan is simply part of a strategy to portray conventional public schools as failures and to replace them—eventually, replace them completely—with non-union charters and voucher schools that rely on young, short-term and inexpensive teachers from agencies like Teach for America. A document distributed by the Newark Public Schools only adds to the suspicion.
The document is a spreadsheet that identifies which high schools will take seriously needy children once the “One Newark” plan shakes out. What it shows is that most of the self-contained special education classes will be assigned to conventional public high schools.
What that means, of course, is that charter schools and magnet schools will be freed from the responsibility of educating special needs students—and freed from the burden of having the test scores of those students attributed to their schools and, under the state’s new evaluation system, to their students.
Gov. Chris Christie has called the Newark schools “failure factories.” So far, he has been given a free pass— from the courts, the Legislature and mainstream media—for failing to fully fund the state’s school aid formula, for failing to spend the available billions on the construction and repair needs of urban schools. Inciting resentment against teachers and other public employees, he has been able to blame his own misfeasance in office—the real cause of the current urban school crisis—on thousands of public school teachers.
Making conventional public schools warehouses for the neediest students is a strategy in Christie’s attack on public education–and it is at the core of the “One Newark” plan devised by Cami Anderson, Christie’s agent in Newark. Of course, their test scores will be lower—and, of course, the scores of favored charter schools that do not enroll these students will be higher. He manufactures the evidence to support his argument.
Less than two years ago, Anderson’s handling of special education at West Side was the subject of a critical report that required her to make major changes. Teachers there say the changes were not made.
One NPS administrator said about the new distribution chart:
“None of the charters will receive any of the students that flood the regular public schools in Newark, nor will the magnet schools. They’re being stacked to ‘succeed’ next year while the regular public schools will once again be blamed for not achieving on the same level.”
An email that accompanied the chart explained, “Special needs students will not go to all of the ‘One Newark’ schools: Science, American History, University, Bard, North Star, TEAM, Newark Collegiate , Newark Bridges, Newark Leadership Academy will not get cognitively impaired special needs students.”
But, the chart shows, Central, Barringer, East Side, Shabazz, Weequahic, Newark Vocational will be assigned those special ed students. Technology is alone among the magnets but it will continue to take only one class of auditorily impaired, not cognitively impaired, students. That class has been at Technology for years.
I asked the spokesman for the Newark Public Schools about the assignment of special education classes. I sent him a copy of the chart and asked whether one existed for elementary schools. He did not respond.
I have not seen a similar chart for elementary schools but, historically, charter schools have not taken their share of special needs students.
Ironically, Anderson promoted her plan as a way of assuring that charter schools take their fair share of special needs and other needy students.