It's teacher hunting season!

Friday, December 9, 2011

N.J. "is Roiling Over Charter Schools": Wave of Student, Parent Teacher Fight-Backs

No, it is not just New York City parents, students and teachers protesting at Panel for Educational Policy that oppose charter schools.

A wave of push-back against the imposition of charter schools is taking place across New Jersey. This time the fight-back is in middle class or upper-middle class suburbs.

Rutgers Prof speaks and organizes against charters
Julia Sass Rubin, a founding member of Save Our Schools NJ, says public schools are being undermined.

“This is happening across the country,” said Rubin, during a visit to the Lawrence branch of the Mercer County Library on Wednesday. “It’s a national phenomenon.”

Rubin is an associate professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Her talk was hosted by the Lawrence chapter of the League of Women Voters.

Rubin's talk, "Keeping Public Schools Public," covered the state of education in the Garden State and how Save Our Schools NJ is working to strengthen public school systems.

Save our Schools NJ is grassroots campaign that advocates for equal access to high-quality public education and for reform of state charter school law, including a local vote to allow charter schools to open in a community.

“Local communities should have a say if they want a charter school,” Rubin said.

Schools districts throughout the state – including Princeton, South Brunswick, East Brunswick, New Brunswick and Highland Park – have taken steps to oppose charter schools they oppose.

“Busloads of suburbanites are supposed to have an Occupy DOE [Department of Education] on Dec. 16,” Rubin said. “The state is roiling over charter schools.”

The organization also has an issue with the the lottery system for charter school enrollment. Rubin said most disadvantaged families don’t have the resources to get the necessary information about charter enrollment, so charter schools end with mostly affluent children.

No community clamour for charters; no community say in imposition of charters; activist group pushes "opt-out" bill.
also from, December 9, 2011:
Save Our Schools NJ has proposed the Opt-Out Lottery Bill, which would require charter schools to automatically include everyone in their communities that qualify and give families the option to opt-out if they do not want to be considered for enrollment. The bill is designed to level the field for parents who don’t have easy access to information or are restricted by language barriers.

Rubin expects action on the opt-out legislation and other proposed bills will come soon. “This has become a headache for the administration,” she said. “There will be something done with the bills.”

Save Our Schools NJ wants to maintain the current school funding formula and opposes to school vouchers. She compared the current voucher bill, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, to money laundering.

“If you give me a dollar and I give that dollar back, have you actually given me a dollar?” Rubin asked. Although vouchers prevent money being taken away from public school funds it negatively creates new subsidy streams for private schools, Rubin said.

Rubin also wants to stop additional segregation in schools. According to Rubin, there are 500 heavily segregated school systems in the state and the ones that are mixed are being targeted by charter schools.

“We want to see suburban children going to urban schools and vice versa,” Rubin said. “It’s good to mix it up.”

Several members of the audience agreed there is a need for more school integration.

Retired teacher Lloyd Fredericks, who taught at a high school in Newark, said the state has forgotten the benefits of being a melting pot. He added that without public schools there is no nation.

Teaneck protest parallels NYC struggle against closing schools for charter schools
From the Record, December 7, 2011:
"Crowd rallies against proposed virtual charter school in Teaneck"
School officials and police estimated about 200 people turned out at 3:30 p.m. for an event scheduled to last several hours. Students waved signs declaring “Don’t bleed our good public schools” and “Local $$ for Teaneck Scholars.”

Speakers took the microphone to call for a local vote on charter approvals throughout the state and to criticize the proposal for a full-time cyber charter — all while student drummers pounded to bolster the applause.

“This virtual charter will do much more harm than good,” declared Lev Herskovitz, 18. “In our society today we rely on technology far too often and this is not a case where it should be dominantly present. Classrooms are where the real learning takes place.”

Organizers of the Garden State Virtual Charter say it will draw only a few students, and therefore a small amount of funding, from Teaneck; most of its initial group of 1,000 in grades K-12 will come from across New Jersey, they say.

District officials balked, however, when they received a letter from the state Department of Education suggesting they set aside $15.4 million for the charter. State officials have said that figure was meant only as a budgeting tool, but Teaneck filed a legal petition Tuesday asking the state to rescind the letter and delay approving any virtual charters until New Jersey legislates a fair, manageable way to fund them. The Office of Administrative Law has not yet scheduled a hearing.

Home districts pay 90 percent of their per-pupil costs for students who attend charters from their towns.

Jason Flynn, a founder of the proposed charter, said in a release Tuesday that his group would push ahead. The charter “will bring state of the art digital technology to deliver a high quality, highly personalized education to our students who … are not succeeding in a traditional classroom setting,” he said in release. He could not be reached Wednesday.

The Teaneck Board of Education has stated it does not oppose charters, virtual charters or virtual learning; it’s against a process that requires officials to set school budgets before they can estimate how many students will head to charters.

Speak Up Highland Park handed out flyers in Teaneck inviting people to “Occupy” the Education Department in Trenton on Dec. 16 at 11 a.m. to call for a local voice in charter approvals.

In Highland Park, the District refused a charter three times, the charter is shoved at the district a fourth time
From the Daily Record, November 28, 2011:
"Highland Park charter school meeting forum for parents, legislators to discuss issues"

The Teaneck charter is a "virtual learning" proposal. Lee Fang at The Nation has written a piece on "How Online Learning Companies Bought America's Schools."

From the Nation piece: commercial learning is a revolving door destination for former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein and former District of Columbia mayor Adrian Fenty.

Moe’s [investment banker Michael Moe] conference marked a watershed moment in school privatization. His first “Education Innovation Summit,” held last year, attracted about 370 people and fifty-five presenting companies. This year, his conference hosted more than 560 people and 100 companies, and featured luminaries like former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, now an education executive at News Corporation, a recent high-powered entrant into the for-profit education field. Klein is just one of many former school officials to cash out. Fenty now consults for Rosetta Stone, a language company seeking to expand into the growing K-12 market.

As Moe ticked through the various reasons education is the next big “undercapitalized” sector of the economy, like healthcare in the 1990s, he also read through a list of notable venture investment firms that recently completed deals relating to the education-technology sector, including Sequoia and Benchmark Capital. Kleiner Perkins, a major venture capital firm and one of the first to back and Google, is now investing in education technology, Moe noted.

See what can happen with representative democracy, instead of total mayoral control: Newark advisory board rejects a charter school proposal:
NJN News, April 7, 2011:
It’s been a tumultuous time in Newark since the controversial school overhaul plan was leaked to the press in February. It calls for consolidating some schools and co-locating others – both of which would free up space for charter schools, and creating new traditional public schools. In a surprising move, Newark’s School Advisory Board rejected the latter proposal.

In New Jersey we thus see a parallel to the New York City push-back. Yet, the people have more power, in contrast to the voice-less parents in New York City under mayoral control.

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