NEWARK, N.J. – Newark teachers and their allies apparently aren’t interested in improving the city’s schools.
They made that perfectly clear at a recent school board meeting when more than 500 people – mostly unionized district employees, “community activists,” and anyone else they could recruit to their cause – shouted down state appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson with chants and personal insults.
At one point in the meeting Tuesday night, things got personal when “community activist” Natasha Allen commented on Anderson’s child, who is mixed race.
“Do you not want for our brown babies what you want for your brown baby?” Allen sneered, prompting Anderson to gather her things and walk out with her senior staff, NJSpotlight.com reports.
The school board decided to proceed with the meeting, though it has no power or authority to do much of anything since the district is under state control.
The hostility toward Anderson is Big Labor’s reaction to her One Newark plan, which would close bad schools, expand the number of quality charter schools in the district, and provide universal enrollment, the news site reports.
In other words, the plan would get rid of bad schools and install better ones in their place. It would also give parents the ability to choose the school that works best for their child. Those seem like things most parents would want.
But Newark’s loud-mouthed employee unions have convinced many people in the community that Anderson’s plan is about killing neighborhood public schools to make room for a devious corporate takeover of city schools. The worst offender is American Federation of Teachers President Rhonda Weingarten, who attended the board meeting protest to oppose “corporate-influenced school reform,” according to NJ.com.
“The nation is watching Newark,” Weingarten barked, according to NJSpotlight.com. “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.”
It’s not the community, however, that Weingarten and her ilk are truly concerned about. They’re worried about losing dues-paying union jobs to charter schools, which are typically not unionized.
Weingarten is correct in the fact that the AFT appears to have been successful in stirring the emotions of local residents to suit its agenda, but the facts don’t back up the union cause.
Doing things the union way in Newark has resulted in a 67 percent graduation rate, one of the worst in the state. The dismal student performance is in addition to massive financial problems brought on by runaway labor spending. The deadly combination of dismal student performance and financial mismanagement convinced the state to take over the district in 1995, though not much has changed since.
Anderson wants to use a bold new approach that has the potential to literally transform how the system works and give parents more power and choice in how their child is educated.
The AFT and its supporters want to keep things exactly the way they are because injecting competition into the district is bad for union business. The AFT cares about the AFT, and that’s about it.
Unless the community soon realizes that fact, it seems likely Big Labor will succeed in its mission to run Anderson out of town, along with the most promising plan the school district has seen in a long time.
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