Jersey Jazzman: Newark Will NEVER Have Control Of Its Schools
Thoughtful and angry counterpoint on state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson’s overriding the locally elected school board’s vote against leasing school buildings to charter schools.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the state-appointed superintendent of Newark’s schools’ told its duly elected advisory board to go jump in the Passaic.
There is simply no way that Newark, under the current New Jersey educational regime, is going to get its schools back. The Broadies who have infested the NJDOE want charters, and they want them run by their people. Nothing is going to stop them; certainly not a bunch of noisy parents who don’t want to see school funds dumped into charters that don’t do any better than the local public schools.
It’s true that there are a lot of mediocre and even ineffective charter schools in Newark. A search on GreatSchools.org, which evaluates schools on a one-to-ten scale based on standardized testing results, shows that there are, indeed, many charters that don’t do better than their public school counterparts. There are also public schools that are great—Ann Street school in the Ironbound has been a Blue-Ribbon winner in years past.
The challenge is to figure out how the effective models are scaled up across the city and the problem schools are either fixed or dissolved quickly.
Given the facts provided by the Ledger, this doesn’t sound like a situation where wildly successful schools were being shut down to favor charter schools run by highly-paid consultants. It sounds like the board approved to keep mostly empty schools from consolidating and foot a million-dollar renovation bill out of fear, uncertainty and doubt.
(To the board’s credit, it sounds as though Anderson didn’t supply details about the charter schools applying to lease the buildings, so they didn’t have much to go on.)
I argued that the pragmatic decision here was to lease the buildings: buoy the budget, expand the schools that are reporting successes, and consolidate the tiny schools that meet in enormous, aging facilities.
It seems the Star Ledger Editorial Board agrees with me.
The rational policy here is obvious: Allow the charter schools to rent some of the empty space in conventional schools, or even entire schools. They could serve more kids and the district could earn rental income.
But this is Newark, where politics often veer into the absurd. So the Newark school board, after a raucous meeting on Monday, voted against a series of leases — including those sought by North Star and Team.
And now Cami Anderson, the superintendent, has vetoed the board’s vote and signed the leases. At least someone in power is looking after the interests of the kids in Newark first.
As a Newark parent, I have skin in the game in this decision, something that most of the Star Ledger Editorial Board and, I suspect, Jersey Jazzman don’t have. My oldest is about to enter kindergarden, and it took us some time to evaluate the options and come to a decision—one I’ll detail in another post.
Newark schools need leadership that will make hard decisions, study successful trends, be willing to experiment, and use resources carefully. In those terms, I think Anderson’s decision trumps that of the board.
There may be something to the idea that prevention of returning control of the schools to Newark would be better for Newark kids. But using this vote to make that argument is misguided.