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.
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.