01/29/2014

Newark reform plan under fire from educators and public

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Hundreds of educators, students, parents and community members turned out Jan. 28 for a raucous meeting of the Newark (N.J.) Public Schools Advisory Board, to protest Superintendent Cami Anderson's One Newark plan, which would close or privatize many of the city's neighborhood schools.

A new Rutgers University study shows that Anderson's plan has serious flaws. The schools bearing the brunt of the consequences have a greater share of low-income and black and Latino students. The schools that are being kept open are not used more than the schools slated for closure. And the charter operators that would take over the closed neighborhood schools don't have a record of achieving better outcomes.

AFT President Randi Weingarten joined the protestors and addressed the board. "The nation is watching Newark," she said. "The emotion is palpable here, and the AFT will be here with you to fight for the community until the community gets its schools back." The AFT is asking the board to fix, not close, its public schools.

Weingarten also visited Newark in January, when she marched with members of the Newark Teachers Union and students as part of the AFT's National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.

Anderson, who was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie to oversee the Newark schools, was also criticized for the recent suspension of five principals who spoke out against her reform plan. The principals have been reinstated, but two were reassigned, and they have filed a federal complaint that their freedom of speech was violated.

The AFT ran a full-page ad in the Star-Ledger the day of the board meeting. In addition, an online petition opposing Anderson's One Newark plan and urging those opponents to "take back our schools and reclaim the promise of public education in Newark" has gathered nearly 800 signatures. [Dan Gursky, Kate Childs Graham, NJ Spotlight]

January 29, 2014