The Poor Pay the Highest Price for Charter School Experiments — Part 3 — Newark

Newark Parents wait in line for school assignment.
Newark parents and students wait in long lines to find out their school assignment. Next, they stand in line at another location to actually enroll. Credit:

This is the 3rd in a series of three posts pointing out how corporate, investor-owned charter school organizations have chosen to experiment at the expense of children who are mostly from poor families.

The first focused on New Orleans and the slick transformation of a “recovery” school situation into a permanent reduction of publicly controlled schools to zero. That’s right, zero. This school year all schooling for New Orleans will be investor-controlled and owned charters.

In the second of this series about Detroit we saw once again how problems with a public school administration in a city with high poverty and high percentages of black and brown children led to investor-controlled and owned charters taking over. Like in New Orleans, Detroit Public Schools were taken over by the state, not to correct problems, but to turn them over to unaccountable edu-corporations.

We have seen that  these edu-corporations choose training over inquiry precisely because the investor class of people running them don’t want poor, black, and brown children to think — just comply with orders from mostly white teachers and administrators.

Newark, New Jersey is yet another example of this corporate cynicism of the entitled class who invest in and run these corporation “schools”.

The traditional mainstream media outside of New Jersey has been largely silent about a complete fiasco now under way in Newark, New Jersey. Needless to say, if this happened in any predominantly white, middle class city in the U.S. it would be national news.

It started last year when Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie worked closely in secret with charter school corporation honchos to cook up a takeover of Newark Public Schools by private interests. All of this was covered by the appeal to “reform” and  the usual BS phrase used by every disingenuous administrator in the history of the world: “Doing what’s best for kids.”

The Christie-appointed head of the Newark schools is Cami Anderson who is being paid $300,000 per year to straighten out the problems with Newark schools.

Instead, what is under way is a far worse mess than any total of problems identified earlier in that school system. In a post on August 21st, New Jersey blogger Bob Braun described the first day of getting assigned to schools in the new, improved Anderson plan for closing neighborhood schools and parceling out students to new corporate charters:

The implementation of the deeply flawed “One Newark” student-dispersal program all but collapsed yesterday as the state administration’s highly paid bureaucrats kept hundreds of angry and frustrated  parents and children waiting in un-airconditioned school rooms or outside in 90+ heat to register their children for the few remaining public school seats. Just hours into the chaos, Newark school officials locked the doors to Newark Vocational and told the men, women, and children waiting outside to come back at 5 a.m. the next morning.


The people in line outside shouted angrily at the bureaucrats and demanded a “number”–as shoppers do at meat markets–and the chance to get inside so they could plan for their children. Many said they could not return the next day because they had taken the day off from working and couldn’t take another day.

“The people downtown have no idea how the people of Newark work,” says Frankie Adao, the head of the Newark Parents Union, who witnessed the chaos. “They don’t understand they have to work, they have to be places and arrange for child care. I hope this wakes up many of the parents who didn’t think ‘One Newark’ had anything to do with them. Now they know.”

More than the majority of the parents and students in Newark are in the poor to working poor economic class. In addition, many are black or brown.

What the “One Newark” plan is doing is no different from what corporate education profiteers are doing in New Orleans or Detroit. They are experimenting with ideas that they have about how to educate the poor for cheaper while saving much of the money for themselves and their investors, who they believe deserve the tax money more.

In recent days there have been meetings between the new Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Cami Anderson’s state-appointed bureaucrats with little progress.

And this is even before students have started their first day of school. What will happen to students and teachers once this grand/not-so-grand experiment really gets under way? How many students will be left behind? How many conscientious teachers will be fired and replaced with TFA Ivy-Leagers who see a good opportunity to get their large school loans forgiven so that they can go on their privileged way?

I urge you to follow Bob Braun’s Ledger blog for updates on the latest in this fiasco.

The whole culture of corporate charters is not based on a “business” model as obedient Chamber of Commerce staffers have said.  It sounds somewhat noble that we would run a school with the same determination, loyalty, and efficiency as your local machine shop of 20 employees.

But that isn’t really the model. Instead it is a model that comes out of the feverish brains of investors — corporate raiders — whose only focus is firing the management of the latest business that they have raided and busting the unions, or firing any employee who even mentions unions as in the case of the charter in Detroit that gave 60-days notice to a whole faculty for talking union.

Bad Models of Management by Any Measure

Manufacturers and companies that actually make things know that they can’t treat their employees or clients the way that charters do their teachers and students. And they don’t.

Keeping in mind that Detroit charter described in Part 2 of this series, can you remember when was the last time that you knew of a whole production shop being fired at once in the first 1/4 of their production cycle? I sure don’t. If they did, the management would be fired along with them.

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if the best practices of effective workplaces were brought to corporation schools, but they are not. Instead, charters are actually run not by business people, but financiers who only look at profitability and short-term gain. These are the class of people like Mitt Romney who haven’t ever really developed or made anything except for the size of their own bank account.

Investors Don’t Care About You

Financiers, raiders, and investors don’t know how to produce anything really, and they don’t care. Their only interest is cash profit. If they wreck the lives of 1000s of people in the process, so what?

And these are the people pulling the strings of corporate charter schools across our nation. They are the ones who give huge sums of money to political campaigns so that laws can be passed that create a rigged education game that benefits a few and disrupts the education of mostly poor, black and brown children.

Investors take advantage of the American reality that the poor have very little voice and virtually no political power to fight back. So, the the poor have one more disadvantage to endure — cut-rate education.

Action Now!

If your state has already been drinking the ALEC cool aid like Louisiana, Michigan, and New Jersey, read, write, act for the children who are being harmed by reckless investors.

The easiest states in which to stay passive are the ones that are still being worked by ALEC to make changes to laws that open the door to investor-owned corporation schools. Listen closely to what is being proposed. Pay attention to what teachers organizations are saying about laws that are proposed.

Most importantly, in those states like mine, never allow a candidate to slide by on questions about their stance on charters by saying that there currently is no problem. That’s a trick, and we should not allow it to work.

In states still on the “action list” for ALEC like Oklahoma and others, insist on answers to these questions:

  • Do you want more relaxed laws on establishing charters?
  • If more permissive laws are proposed, what will your position be?

Our children are counting on us to defend their right to a free, democratically, locally controlled public education. They deserve no less.

New Jersey protest of charter schools
“Liar” is painted on pictures of state-appointed Newark Supt of Schools Cami Anderson and New Jersey Gov Chris Christie in a recent protest. Credit: