Monday, October 26, 2015

Tensions erupt at Newark school board meeting | Bob Braun's Ledger

Tensions erupt at Newark school board meeting | Bob Braun's Ledger:

Tensions erupt at Newark school board meeting




A growing sense of impatience and frustration over continued state control of the Newark schools and increasing encroachment by privately-operated charter schools boiled over into disruption Monday night at a regular meeting of the city’s school board. A pro-public school activist, Jimmy White, charged the stage at University High School where board members were sitting, angrily denouncing the system’s business administrator. Although White was ejected by security guards, students and others in the audience cheered him on and continued to disrupt the meeting after his eviction.
“You have to go,” shouted White as he strode toward the stage. He was aiming his comments at Valerie Wilson, the business administrator who had just completed a long presentation outlining just how difficult it would be for local control of schools to be returned to Newark after 20 years of state control. “You brought us these problems.”
Newark Student Union leaders Jose Leonardo (left) and Tanaisa Brown, lead chants in White's support
Newark Student Union leaders Jose Leonardo (left) and Tanaisa Brown, lead chants in White’s support
Tensions already were high because of an apparent decision by pro-charter school parents and leaders to push back against increasing demands by pro-public school activists to slow the burgeoning growth of the privately-operated charter schools.
Increasing enrollment of charter schools, which are publicly-funded, decreases the amount of funds available to traditional, neighborhood public schools. That is happening at the same time that the state administration is cutting funds because of a budget shortfall.

Roberto Cabanes, who helped organize the Newark Student Union, speaks to supporters outside University High School.
Roberto Cabanes, who helped organize the Newark Student Union, speaks to supporters outside University High School.
The pro-public school advocates have lost ground recently. The city’s planning board–with the apparent blessing of Mayor Ras Baraka–approved the building of a new charter school by the NorthStar chain on land once owned by The Star-Ledger. The New York-based chain of KIPP charter schools–known in Newark as TEAM Academy–also announced plans to open five new charter schools. A consortium of from three to five public schools also is expected to try to convert to charters.
One of the pro-public school advocates, Annette Allston, a vice president of the Newark Teachers Association,  predicted the city would soon “become another New Orleans” where all public schools have been closed and replaced by charters. Charters now enrollt about a third of all Newark students but that number is expected to grow to nearly 70 percent in a few years.
The pro-public school advocates also felt the sting of the possible loss of a champion, Baraka, who rode to election last year  on a wave of anti-privatization sentiment. Since that time, he has moved closer to the supporters of charter schools.
Baraka did not show up–but his pro-charter rival in last year’s election, Shavar Jeffries, did. Jeffries is now head of the pro-charter Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) that blames public school unions  for  the failure of urban schools.
The night saw a resurgence of the Newark Student Union, an organization that Tensions erupt at Newark school board meeting | Bob Braun's Ledger:

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