Newark: It’s time to decide to fight or to surrender.

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Ras Baraka--time to choose
Ras Baraka–time to choose

Newark’s leadership and its people face an extraordinary challenge in the next few weeks. They either will collapse in the face of Chris Christie’s wily plan to divide the opposition and save his phony reputation as an educational “reformer” in time for the presidential primaries–or they will stand strong and united and use whatever means are necessary to force the state to return local control to Newark, to end  “One Newark,” and to dismiss Cami Anderson, the inept, arrogant, and disrespectful agent of Christie in the city.

It’s a time for individuals to make important decisions that will reverberate throughout the city–and throughout history. Choices made by a man like Ras Baraka and a woman like Marion Bolden will make a crucial difference. If they cooperate with the state and its “working group,” they will deliver the city’s schools to the forces behind Cory Booker’s dream of making the city the “charter school capital of America.” And that will lead to his feverish, corporate-fueled dream of privatizing all public education.

If they refuse to cooperate, if they refuse to bail out Christie, Anderson, and Education Commissioner David Hespe, they can achieve the return of local control, they can stop the suffering of parents caught up in “One Newark” and they can begin a nationwide roll-back of the effort to turn the $650 billion spent on education each year to private hands.

So what will it be?

The Star-Ledger’s editorial board has made its choice. It knows what will help  Cami Anderson, Chris Christie, and David Hespe. Just as it opposed Baraka’s election, it now calls for a “ceasefire” against “One Newark.”  Just a few months ago, the newspaper was dismissing the opposition to Anderson as “shrieking” and “strident” radicals who didn’t know what was best for the children of Newark–an ironic thought considering the newspaper will be gone from Newark as of September.

Well, on May 13, the people of Newark gave The Star-Ledger their answer–they elected Baraka and told Christie they wanted “One Newark” and Cami Anderson out of Newark. If the state had rational leadership, it would have taken the hint. As Baraka himself noted, cooler heads would have prevailed and the people would have been given their schools back.

But as each day passed since the election, putting the toothpaste back in the tube became more difficult–and everyone knew that. Or should have known that. Now The Star-Ledger is contending it is too late to stop “One Newark.”

This ploy has been typical of Christie’s treatment of Newark as his private educational experiment. He creates a problem and then insists only he knows the solution. Strip the public schools of their resources–and then blame them for failing. Skim the public schools of students placed in charters–and then bemoan the enrollment drop.

Now–the plan is to create confusion and contend it is too late to do anything but finish the job. Implement “One Newark” despite knowing that is precisely what the people of Newark do not want. They elected Baraka to stop it, not to help Christie implement it.

It’s a transparent ploy, an effort to divide the people of the city. It changes the subject from Anderson and “One Newark” to whether the “working group” should be supported. Just look at Facebook, it’s already working. Those who know how to oppress the people of Newark know how to divide the opposition.

So sad.

It is time for Newark to decide what it wants. Either it will aggressively demand fulfillment of the promise of equal educational opportunity for all children, or it will stand back and watch the city become a hierarchical system of charters for the most promising and warehouses for the children who need public education the most.

It is up to you, Ras Baraka. You can lead the fight or you can compromise.

It is up to you, Marion Bolden. You can join the working group or be the leader of a restored public school system.

It is up to you, Joe Del Grosso. You can cut the best deal possible for your members, or you can unite in solidarity with the people your members serve.

It is up to you, Wendell Steinhauer. Last March, as president of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), you stood in front of the Statehouse and promised Newark’s fight would be the NJEA’s fight. Haven’t heard from you lately–especially now that the nurses you represent got their contract. But now you can put the weight of the statewide teachers’ union behind the people and teachers of Newark or you can escape back to the safety of your distant Trenton offices.

It is up to you, principals of Newark. You can stand behind Cami’s victims–H. Grady James IV, Regina Sharpe, Lamont Thomas, Lisa Brown, Dorothy Handfield,  Deneen Washington, Tony Motley, Frederick Chatman,  and Aretha Malloy–or you can cower in the corners, hoping the ax doesn’t fall on your neck.

It is up to you, members of the clergy. You can join with Rev. Bill Howard and stand by your people or you can stand by Chris Christie who has betrayed  very religious principle I can think of–he would choke trying to recite the Sermon on the Mount.

It is up to you, political leaders. You can throw your lot in with Christie and Joe D and the others who betrayed, not just Newark, not just Barbara Buono, but the legitimate aspirations of the people of Newark. How many times will you allow Christie and Anderson to humiliate Ronald Rice before you see they are really humiliating every African-American politician–every African-American–in New Jersey?

It is up to you, parents. You can face down the bullies–the way Donna Jackson, Natasha Allen, Dawn Haynes, Grace Sergio, Frankie Adao and others have–or you can pretend this isn’t your fight.

It is up to Rashon Hasan–you can continue to be a shameless collaborator with the occupying forces or you can do the honorable thing and resign from the school board and join the fight against Anderson as a leader of the people.

The time to decide is now.

9 comments

  1. Teacher

    Bob,

    When Cami refused to cooperate with the Advisory Board that was acceptable. Now Hasan wants his seat at the sucking up table and you oppose him. What do you propose for two other constituencies; teachers and NPS employees?

    Bob Braun: I am not sure I understand your question. I would oppose any collaboration by anyone with the “working group.” I did not find it “acceptable” for Cami to refuse to cooperate with the advisory board–when did I write that?

  2. Your Neighbor, Your Friend

    “He creates a problem and then insists only he knows the solution.”

    Yes, precisely!

    Governor Christie’s game is pure authoritarianism. He is the Father of the Year. Cami Anderson is his diabolical nurse. The family they represent is in allegiance to the corporate father, slave to Mammon. It is a family dynamic straight out of Stockholm Syndrome, and the solutions offered will always be of the Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy wing of the regime. It is, for those who can see through it, a terribly dark experiment. But it will find its devoted followers, because there are sufficient among us who crave the acceptance of those anointed by this regime’s most destructive heirs.

    We should all be concerned, because we all are next in line, no matter how far we live from Newark, and no matter our pigment. The war for education is a war on the minds of the innocent. When we trade love, honesty, and the power of creativity for the euphoria of power, hatred, and destruction, we are on a war jones until it all burns out and we begin again in year one of the recovery.

    It may sound too dramatic now, to the unconscionably comfortable, but when our educational systems fall, the writing will be on the wall until the walls come down. Bob Braun is not mad. And we all need to fight this thing. Now and every day of our self-respecting lives. If you are not next in the struggle, either you are completely intact and untouched by this virus, or you are already gone.

    Take back our streets, our schools, our communities, and fill them with love. Do a little more each day. Let your friends help you when you tire, and repay them with same. Send the hateful packing along with their poisonous messaging systems, or be prepared to kiss the feet of the new master.

    It was never a race thing, not as it is taught; that is a timeless canard. It is a power thing, wrapped around any available theme. Stand and be counted among the truly living wherever you are at this very moment, and move in the direction of your deepest trust. There comes a time when waiting is no longer in a person’s best interest, and we all come to it eventually.

    Bob Braun: I love this. Thank you.

    • Inspired Teacher

      “Stand and be counted among the truly living wherever you are at this very moment, and move in the direction of your deepest trust. There comes a time when waiting is no longer in a person’s best interest, and we all come to it eventually.”

      The above lines from Your Neighbor, Your Friendare simply beautiful. As a Newark Public Schools employee, I am inspired and motivated to be an agent of change for my students and school community. The above lines also resonate beyond the struggles of Newark and are applicable to all personal, national, and global fight for equality and justice.

      Since December, I have silently read all of Bob’s articles and reader comments. I am standing up by submitting my first comment and participating in the discussion. I encourage every reader and Newark well-wishers to take a stand and get involved now. It is not the time for regrets or a melancholy reflection of things we could have done but didn’t do. Just stand and “move in the direction of your deepest trust.”

  3. Barbara Abdur-Razzaq

    Let’s see who really wants to stop “One Newark Plan” now! The only thing to fear is fear itself!
    People of Newark revisit the Montgomery Bus Boycott and take note of the sacrifices made to bring about a change! (over 1 year)

  4. Bill Wolfe

    Hi Bob – apologies for this off topic comment, but I thought that you and your readers might be interested in this.

    It sure seems to fit the agenda of killing black urban public schools by driving out experienced professional teachers, targeted on Camden, see:

    “One measure would pay pension incentives of up to $12,000 for qualifying Camden teachers to retire, a move that its backers hope will reduce the number of layoffs in the city’s cash-strapped school district. In May, 241 employees, including more than 200 teachers, were given layoff notices.”

    http://www.northjersey.com/news/camden-getting-special-status-in-new-jersey-laws-1.1046978

  5. Bill Wolfe

    I think the parents, students, and residents of Newark should not rely on the establishment “leadership” but rather take their future into their own hands and simply refuse to cooperate.

    If enough people resist, the “One Newark” machine stops.

  6. newaekbluesman

    Seems I hear the voice of harmony in hostility,what now is the plan,I see you will more then be willing to tear at each other and your leaders then state a plan .That is why the establishment wins.Easy to confuse looking for a solution to not wanting one.So what are you willing to sacrifice for victory,it may cost you money.

  7. Source1

    Bob,

    Rest easy.

    You don’t have to worry about Ras Baraka, Marion Bolden, or any of the other honorable people who are firmly rooted in Newark and who truly care about the youngsters and families in Newark. These people see the “working group” (committee)) for what it is – a sham.

    It is clear that the State’s plan is to use the committee to silence the aggressive outcry that Anderson must go. Sure, some aspects of One Newark will be modified, probably those elements of the plan that couldn’t work anyway. Even with a modified One Newark, Anderson will continue to keep the Newark Public School System in a state of disequilibrium, she will continue to close schools, and kids will continue to suffer.

    While members of the committee jump through Christie’s hoop like circus animals, Christie and the funders will get the core of what they want – the dismantling of the Newark Public School System.

    Christie and Hespe have cleverly attempted to change the focus of the discussion – to change the debate. The discussion now has become, “Should we sit on the Committee?” Related to this question is, “Who should sit on the Committee?”

    But again, rest easy Bob – The real leaders of Newark will not fall for this attempt to the change the debate. The real leaders of Newark will not participate in a sham committee and they will do all they can to have Anderson removed.

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