What’s wrong with New Jersey?

Mayor Baraka joins the march
Mayor Baraka joins the march

The mayor of the state’s largest city joined hundreds of others–teachers, students, parents– in a march that closed down its largest thoroughfare. And the mayor promised the demonstrations would continue and be even more creative. In any other state in the nation, the event would have made, not just statewide news, but national news.  But not here in New Jersey. Here in New Jersey, Mayor Ras Baraka’s bold action and aggressive words were ignored by the media, including the state’s largest newspaper. Only a few digital journalists and photographers did cover it–along with a public television station looking to balance a ridiculously one-sided interview the day before with the target of Newark’s anger, state superintendent Cami Anderson.

What’s wrong with New Jersey? Why is it ignoring a situation that could easily boil out of control–while its media cover every burp uttered by Chris Christie who doesn’t deserve becoming president of anything besides an inmates’ foodie club in a federal prison somewhere?

It’s not  unnoticed. Baraka raised the question in his speech on Broad Street at rush hour. After reciting why the people of the city are angry with  Cami Anderson, he turned on what he called the “press” and, of course, everyone there knew he was talking about The Star-Ledger:

“That’s why we’re upset. We’re not upset with her personality. And I wish the media would figure that out. I wish they’d figure that out. Because you can open up the paper and, if I have an argument with a council person, it’s on the front page. But this is a lady with a $70 million deficit–who has closed a bunch of schools–and has schools that haven’t worked–and there’s not one thing, not one thing in the press.

“Just constantly defending and defending and defending her, until you want to figure out who is protecting her? Why is she being protected and who is making (Newark) a testing ground for the rest of the country?”

Broad Street shuts down
Broad Street shuts down

Wouldn’t you like to know? Because what’s happening in Newark will be happening in many other places–in New Jersey and the rest of the country. But, oddly, instead of covering this demonstration on the streets of the state’s largest city, The Star-Ledger published  yet another hymn of praise to charter schools, the third such–well, in the business, we’d call it a “big wet kiss” on the greedy lips of those who want to privatize public education–in a week.

Baraka’s speech and actions were remarkable Wednesday. He demonstrated the forcefulness he used to counter the influence of street gangs when he was a councilman and high school principal–and the passion of his late father,  the poet and playwright Amiri Baraka, in confronting the mindless and maddening injustice that is the state’s ravaging of public education in Newark.

“We want to kill the narrative that everybody agrees with what’s going on in the city,” Baraka said. “We don’t agree with what’s happening in the Newark schools.”

Mindless media–in addition to The Star-Ledger, most notably the Huffington Post and journals like the Wall Street Journal and Forbes–treat Cami Anderson as if she were some great white goddess who is bringing enlightenment to the dark cities of New Jersey. They have no clue as to her background, the evolution of privatization  in New Jersey, and the role played by  hedge fund managers and the unlikely Bobbsy Twins of school privatization,  Chris Christie and Cory Booker.

These oligarchs and their tools–their “useful idiots,” like clueless editorial writers– are not simply taking away public schools, they are taking away neighborhoods and communities that happen to be populated by the poor and people of color. Why?

The twins of school destruction
The twins of school destruction

Because strong communities are strong political forces–and those forces don’t vote for the moneyed interests represented by Christie and Booker (oh, you thought Booker was a Democrat? Really? Remember how he said he wanted to vomit because Obama criticized Romney?).

Because the real estate sitting under community schools and homes translates into millions dollars for gentrifiers, especially in cities like Newark, Jersey City, and Camden. Dollars that will not go to help the people who need it.

Baraka has been a voice of reason and, instead of ignoring him–the way Mark Biedron, the state board of education president,  shamefully did just last week–the protectors of the status quo should listen. Pay heed. Because anger is growing–the school crisis in Newark is creating a unity among races and ethnic groups, between the community and unions,  among students in all neighborhoods, across all imaginable lines.

And this time, the police are on the side of the people. Because Baraka is on the side of the people.

Listen to Baraka:

“This struggle is not emotional. It’s not about us being angry at Cami Anderson. I don’t want to make it about her and me or make it about her personality. We’re opposed to what’s going on and, who’s ever down there doing it, is wrong. No matter who they are or where they come from, it’s wrong.

“We’re not against it because she’s from New York, but because she’s wrong. We’re not mad about her personality. We’re mad because she’s wrong. We’re not upset about anything else except for the fact that she wrong.

“She was supposed to be here helping public schools grow, not closing them down. That’s what we’re upset about.

“Why am I upset? Because we have a 70 million budget deficit for the Newark schools that keeps growing because she keeps putting teachers on the EWP list, putting them in rubber rooms, putting administrators on the list, too,  and making the city pay for it. The taxpayers are paying for it—not just the state taxpayers but Newark taxpayers—are paying for that, too. That’s why we’re upset.

“We’re upset because she keeps ‘renewing’ schools and it’s not working,  the renew school thing is not working, but she keeps doing it and it’s not working.

“We’re upset because she says she’s going to turnaround  schools but that’s a code name for closing them down. She’s getting money from the state for the turnaround and we don’t see any of that money. The state is supposed to be working with the schools for the turnarounds but that’s not happening either.

“We’re upset because she is splitting people’s families up. Because she’s sending kids with special needs to schools and the schools  don’t offer special needs programs. We’re upset because she’s sending English language learners to schools  withbout English language learner programs.

“That’s why we’re upset.”

Cami Anderson must go, he concluded. “Not tomorrow. Today.”

His speech was extemporaneous. Much of what he said was in the painful context of what has been happening in Newark for four years.

Anyone who doesn’t completely understand the references should follow the media that does–this site or others like it, including Blue Jersey, Jersey Jazzman, or The Teacher’s Desk.

Better yet–call your local mainstream media, including the one to which Baraka alluded–and demand they cover what the people of New Jersey need to know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 comments

  1. Concerned Citizen

    Camden is one of the schools not providing English Language Learners with appropriate ESL/Bilingual services.

  2. Gloria Marie

    What is most likely wrong with the rest of New Jersey is many residents probably view this as a “Newark” thing. I remember as a young person growing up in Newark, how the very name of Newark was viewed with disdain. If you told someone you lived in Newark, you often would get the usual shocked comment of “You live in Newark?” Even the name Newark was said as if it was some sort of disease. People outside of Newark back then and now view Newark as all crime, murder, carjacking, hookers, welfare, drugs, and bums laid out on every corner. Newsflash-not every alley in Newark has a sinister villain cloaked in a hat and raincoat waiting to mug you. Not every person that lives in Newark is on welfare or starts fires in buildings. It has its crime issues, we know, but people still live there, and many still care about their community. There are working people and good students that live in Newark, in case close-mindedness fails to allow anyone to realize that fact. It is my belief that what many people outside of Newark do not realize, and this INCLUDES those who were born and raised in Newark, but have moved out since, is that what has been happening in Newark with its schools is a DIRECT reflection of what has been happening in the whole education system in New Jersey. New Jerseyans, connect the dots here for a moment. All roads lead to Trenton. Governor Christie has been gunning for public schools since he stepped into office. Does “privatizing public education” ring a bell? With a greater reliance on standardized testing, schools are being set up to fail. Just when you think you have reached the bar, they push it up higher and say “No, you have to reach up here, now.” How can ring the bell at the top of the ladder when someone keeps raising the bell higher and higher when you get closer? Remember PARCC? How many parents in districts, regardless of the income level, in those districts, pushed to have their children opt-out of that tests? It is not going to get better, folks, unless we unite as a collective to address it. Funding is more and more tied to whether or not the test scores are up. Teacher evaluations cannot be at their desired optimum for teachers unless their students achieve proficient test scores. In many schools that are FOCUS schools, test scores are one-third a teacher’s evaluation score. You heard me correctly: one-third. You can have the best teacher ever, hard-working, students getting good grades, loved by students and teachers, and if his or her students get just below proficient, that teacher is viewed as not effective. Lastly, teachers are public workers, and, as many of us know, public workers are fighting to save their pensions. Public workers, you know-teachers, police officers, firefighters, correction officers, and the like, people who serve the public. Do you know how many people that is? So, why many New Jerseyans have not opened their eyes to the problems in Newark is mind-boggling! This is not just a Newark problem; this is a New Jersey problem. Never say it cannot happen in your school district-oh, but it can! The Newark Teachers Union is a powerful union, but if Chris Christie and his cronies, of which superintendent Cami Anderson is at the top of that list, if they shut down Newark, then imagine how easily they can do the same to smaller school districts. East Side is performing at proficient levels in the Language Arts and Math:79% and 75% are proficient. According to the state, they made proficient. Yet, it is being made into a turnaround school. Turnaround schools are created when a school is failing. East Side is not failing. Check the graduation rates, too, to prove it is not failing. One can see there is a hidden agenda underneath it all. You can say this is a Newark thing, but you surely know Christie has been gunning to privatize public education since day one. He slashed funding for schools, talked to teachers as if they were lowlifes, and then complained about it when a judge said he could not slash that much funding from our schools because it would not allow schools to succeed. Another judge ruled that he could not do what he wants to do to our pensions; yet,Christie stomped and scowled like a baby claiming this was all part of a “liberal agenda.” So, New Jersey, take notice. There are actually still successful schools in Newark. There are many good teachers in Newark. If the powers that be continue their cahoots with such profiting-on-education companies and partnerships such as Pearson and KIPP, the public schools system as we know it will forever cease. Not every town or city in New Jersey is affluent. Public schools are the last remaining beacons of such communities. New Jersey, take a stand.

  3. Kate

    It boggles the mind that anyone could hear multitudes of complaints from every segment of the community, see numerous demonstrations and walkouts, read publicly available financial information showing serious waste and mismanagement, and still not think anything is wrong with the current school administration in Newark.

    That media are the ones ignoring this roar is just incomprehensible. It’s a shame we can no longer depend on traditional news sources to deliver substantive news to the public.

  4. Alyson Nora

    An amazingly accurate article. I just hope and pray that more like it come to the majority public light. Fight on Newark! Fight on!

  5. Rev EddieTorres

    Dear Mrs Loretta Lynch
    I sat down with the two FBI Agents with my Friend and running mate and told them all I knew about the corruption between George Norcross III and Christie who was a US Attorney working in Camden, NJ almost two years ago. The FBI Agents told us they had File Cabinets on the corruption in Camden. Gov Christie placed an unqualified Superintendent and stop the election of a School Board Members deeming the people of Color Black and Hispanics are incapable of self governing. They are using the reparations by the State of New Jersey to replace the first school on the construction list when the people had the money that is going to a Charter School using the same design Camden bought first with the settlement money of 430 million. What type of sick people would think up this idea as being good under God.The State of New Jersey took over Camden in 2000 when the Students of Camden received their settlement in the Abbott vs Burke that netted 6 billion dollars for the 14 minority Cities in New Jersey. Camden, Newark, and Trenton where the original signers and the State took over all three cities promising to expedite construction and then could not account for 1 billion dollars belonging to these three cities. Not one shovel was put in the ground before the money mysteriously disappeared and reappeared under the SDA which has been redistributing the wealth of the students of Camden, Newark, and Trenton. I heard the testimony of Trenton High School and the conditions of leaking toilets in their Computer Lab that is located in the basement. These are criminal acts of government towards the people of color in New Jersey that needs Mrs Lorreta Lynch in Jesus Name we Pray. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ8QY__ojhU Well who do you believe. The witness of two people can charge a man of treason. Treason is the highest crime deserving of the death penalty. In heaven as it is on earth by the witness of God the Father and His Son Jesus we are judged and those who want to serve and minister to the good of the people are responsible to Them. We have a self evident truth in every constitution of each State. The Lieutenant Gov pulls her aside and you believe the testimony of who?. Now I say we have FBI or CIA who are not working in service to the people and it translates to the local police who are there to protect life and property. The Children of these Colored Communities have been robbed of more then a Billion Dollars by the State of New Jersey. Martin Luther King Jr.
    “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
    Always from the Heart
    Rev Eddie Torres

  6. Galton

    With respect,
    The people of Essex county continually reelect people like Joe DeVicenzoand Teresa Ruiz and therefore are their own enemies.
    Ras is in for a political backstabbing by the CHRISTIECRATS still upset about the apple art he overturned.

  7. Joe S.

    Bob is doing his cause no good by attributing venial motives to the charterizers. Apart from some of the operators, they’re not in it for the buck. The funders of the movement are ideologues, and sincere ones at that. And they are a lot scarier because they are ideologues.
    Remember, the Wall Street types who fund this movement are way too wealthy to care about Newark real estate. (And few of them are in the real estate business, anyway.) Instead, they are driven by several things. In approximate order of significance:
    – Misunderstanding of unions. They view unions as being about nothing but worker protection and featherbedding.
    – Narrow perspectives. They view their workplaces–with a highly competitive up-or-out culture–as the template for all workplaces.
    – Class biases. Ivy must be better!
    – Scientism, which runs rife among the managerial classes, and leads to a touching faith in measurement, be it good or bad.
    – I’m sure there are more.
    These guys really believe in this stuff. They also care about the poor performance of urban school districts. They cannot believe that inequality creates the kind of poverty that drives this poor performance, and sincerely believe that they are not racists.

    You’re selling them short if you think they’re cynics. They are much more dangerous for their good faith. But there is an opportunity here. Because they are in good faith, there is a chance that they can be reached by dialogue. Cheapjack imputations of venality don’t help.
    Jersey Jazzman, who Bob cited, is very careful along these lines. Bob should be, too.

    • Sober

      Joe S.

      I work in one of the Newark Public Schools where the children deemed ineligible for charter schools are sequestered. Ras Baraka is a politician and Bob Braun is a journalist. Baraka has to be careful not to alienate constituents. Braun is completely accurate in his depiction of the role of charter schools in Newark. They are not ideologues. They are opportunists.

  8. public education supporter

    In fact, these people are BOTH ideologues and opportunists. They are arrogant enough to believe that they “know what is best” for minority and/or poor populations AND they believe that they deserve to make a profit from their “do-good” activities.
    A questions for Joe S.: if they aren’t interested in Newark real estate, why did the TEAM people buy a public school building (just writing those words sickens me…they maintain they are not-for-profit but in the meantime, they illegally manipulated the system, with Cami Anderson’s cooperation, in order to STEAL from the taxpayers of Newark)??
    There is obviously huge profit in the reform education movement to be made – if not, why are so many hedge fund managers involved?
    Bob Braun has to immerse himself in the dregs of all of this smarmy stuff to do the research and report on what is largely being ignored and so it’s not surprising if he gets a little heated. He is outraged, as everyone should be, about what’s happening to the people, communities and most of all the children of Newark!

  9. Keep public education PUBLIC!

    Why doesn’t anyone care about Newark?
    Where are the lawyers and judges that are obligated to enforce the law?
    I guess they don’t care about Newark either!

    Bob Braun: I have been criticized for invoking race as a primary factor but I see no other explanation. New Jersey’s political power rests in the suburbs and, to further their ends, suburban legislators have demonized and marginalized the people of cities, especially Newark, and created the myth their institutions, like schools, waste money and are mismanaged. That way, the state need not integrate the schools and need not fund them adequately as the price for not funding them. The cities are ignored as places not worth caring about.

  10. Urban Educator

    The suburbs benefit from holding down their opposition in Newark and the other cities. Newark is being used as a carpet bagger piggy bank. The assets of the community are being sold off to the lowest bidders. Meanwhile, Newark Public Schools teachers are forced to buy the most basic supplies like pencils out of pocket. It is racist. It is classist. It is a travesty of justice. The Day of Recogning is nigh.

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  13. Bill Wolfe

    Word – the prize the greed heads are after:

    “Because the real estate sitting under community schools and homes translates into millions dollars for gentrifiers, especially in cities like Newark, Jersey City, and Camden. Dollars that will not go to help the people who need it.”

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