02/27/2014

AFT pressuring NJ Gov. Christie on Newark schools crisis

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AFT President Randi Weingarten has published an open letter to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie regarding the Newark public schools' crisis, calling on him to return control of the district to the community and reject Superintendent Cami Anderson's destructive reform plan.

Anderson, appointed by Christie to run the district, is working to close and privatize schools, fire teachers and hire cheaper workers. And she's doing this all without any community input.

"The people of Newark want their schools back," Weingarten writes. "They don't want the One Newark plan, and they have lost faith in the way Superintendent Anderson has managed the city's public schools.

"Let me explain. Superintendent Anderson dismantled the Global Village—a smart, community-driven effort to provide children with much-needed wraparound services. She ended the Newcomer program, which provided support for English language learners. Her 'renew' schools efforts have yielded poor results. She quickly spent the sizable donation from Facebook. She suspended several administrators who disagreed with her, and she made backroom deals with charter operators. She is forcing through her One Newark plan despite public outcry.

"And now, under the guise of so-called budget problems, the superintendent has asked outgoing state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf to allow her to waive our contract and state law, and wants to replace experienced teachers with new Teach for America recruits, who have never stepped into a classroom and have no qualifications to teach in the Newark schools.

"We worked on that contract together. We agreed that it put into place policies that would be good for students and for teachers. You said yourself that it would 'improve the quality of education across the City of Newark.' This is a failure of management, a failure of fiscal stewardship and a failure of instructional leadership.

"Rather than deal with the fact that Newark students are suffering, school buildings are crumbling and staggering inequities persist, Superintendent Anderson would instead blame and mass fire the people who have devoted their lives to helping Newark's children."

Weingarten's letter comes on the heels of a School Advisory Board meeting that Anderson refused to attend and news of Anderson's intention to seek a waiver of the teachers' contract and state law. (Read a statement from Weingarten and AFT New Jersey President Donna Chiera on the waivers.)

Read more coverage of the Newark schools crisis in Politico.

The AFT also is urging activists to sign a petition calling on Anderson to work with parents and teachers, rather than breaking the contract. [Kate Childs Graham, Dan Gursky]

February 27, 2014