Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, September 25, 2010

As Usual, Education Reformers Ignore The Community

The shit eating grins on Governor Chris Christie, Mayor Cory Booker, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey yesterday at Winfrey's show to celebrate Booker's receiving both control of the Newark school system from the state and $100 million education grant from Zuckerberg say it all:

Look at us! Look how wonderful we are! Look what wonderful things we are doing for the kids!

But the Newark Star Ledger points out that many people in Newark are NOT happy about this deal:

When Newark Mayor Cory Booker walks off the set of the Oprah Winfrey show Friday with a $100 million gift to bolster Newark schools, there will be no raptured audience waiting for him back home.

As news spread through Newark today that Gov. Chris Christie will give Booker oversight of the city’s schools, and that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will help set up a $100 million educational foundation to support school reforms, political and community leaders here reacted with a combination of cautious optimism and outrage.

Many in Newark say the arrangement could be the spark that ignites true reform in the chronically failing district. Others cast the announcement as a classic backroom deal that skirts the will of the voters.

Booker, who has been fighting since July to regain his footing in Newark politics, will have to sell the plan to residents and marshal support for the city’s next superintendent. If recent battles over city water, layoffs, and police practices are any indication, it will be a tough slog.

"The outrage seems to be not about the $100 million deal, but about this backroom deal," said Wilhemina Holder, a longtime education activist, grandmother, and mother of current and former Newark schoolchildren. She said her phone began ringing Wednesday evening when news of the deal first broke on and it hasn’t stopped since. "People are just outraged that the governor has ignored the Newark voters. Over and over again every phone call I got was about this."

In order to get full mayoral control over Newark’s schools, Christie would have to get approval from the Legislature. Newark residents would then get a chance to vote on whether the mayor should run the operation that has been under state control since 1995.

The deal that will be announced today is seen by many in Newark as an end-run around the law. Christie needs no approval from voters to simply appoint Booker as his "special assistant" for Newark schools, thus transferring responsibility to the mayor while maintaining the ultimate right to veto any changes that Booker makes.

"In terms of the state’s perspective of how it wanted to proceed, there wasn’t any meaningful engagement," said school advisory board president Shavar Jeffries referring to today’s announcement as well Christie’s decision to not re-hire Superintendent Clifford Janey.

Jeffries has repeatedly warned that without the blessing of the community, reform will be very difficult. "We cannot sustain a robust education reform agenda if it’s not supported by the people and parents of Newark."

Like Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee in D.C., Booker and Christie intend to push through their reforms without any input from the people who work in those schools, the parents who send their children to those schools, or the people in the neighborhoods where those schools are.

And just as Rhee got money from vulture philanthropists for the D.C. teachers contract that would only be provided if she stays on as D.C. chancellor, Zuckerberg's education grant only happens if Booker gets control of the school system.

Nothing like corporate entities calling the shots and subverting the will of the people, eh?

But as Oprah says, this is for the kids, you know, so who cares about niceties like democracy or community input.

What they are saying is: "We are in an education crisis and only strong-willing leaders like Chris Christie, Cory Booker, Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee can get things done to fix the schools."

We who actually work in schools, especially schools run by those folks, know differently.

We'll see how this plays out.

Christie is under investigation for the Race to the Top mess in Jersey and is going to be subpoenaed to testify before the legislature.

He is currently declaring "executive privilege" and refusing to testify before the legislature.

This education deal and windfall financial gift from Zuckerberg (and the accompanying p.r. he received from Ms. Winfrey on her show) will divert people for a little while from the mess that is coming down the pike for the governor.

But the governor has lied in public about what happened during the Race to the Top process.

He blamed former state ed commissioner Bret Schundler instead.

Schundler has documents proving Christie lied.

But Christie thinks he can bluster his way through.

It's just another example of the arrogance Christie and other ed deformers have over reform.

They just don;t care what people think.

Even people who support ed reform - like Eugene Robinson, Bob Herbert, and Errol Louis in the media and Mike Petrilli and Rick Hess in the blogosphere - have warned that the hubris reformers are showing in their steamroll attempts to reform the system will come back to undo them.

We'll see.

But certainly the announcement that Christie was giving Booker control of the schools through a loophole and subverting the will of the people at the same time is more of the same from the ed deform movement.


  1. A former colleague who resides in South Jersey tells me that he hears rumors from Philadelphia and D.C. educators that Rhee will be chosen to lead the reform efforts in Newark.

  2. Interesting, or predictable depending on your point of view, that Zuckerberg should cough up this money immediately before the release of a film that essentially portrays him as a sociopath.

  3. How was the state of New Jersey selected to receive the beefy check? Is Cory Booker still doing uber elitist and Silicon Valley connected Arianna Huffington who ready to cash in on her forthcoming IPO?

    Check out the background of one of the shadiest players behind this privatizat$on land grab in this war on America's teachers, Reed Hastings (CEO of Netflix.) He also happens to serve on the board of don't think Bill Gates could have cooked up this grand plan to hijack US public school teachers and their unions all by himself?