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Is the Suburban Charter School Battle Christie's Waterloo?

Mother Crusader: With all of the holiday hubbub this segment almost escaped me.

Editor's Note: Darcie Cimarusti, founder of Speak Up Highland Park, writes a blog called "Mother Crusader" to exemplify some of the big education reform debate swirling around our state and our country. She says: "Never intended to become a parent advocate until I watched the great schools in my little town come under attack. The more I learned about what was happening the more I read. The more I read the more I saw how what is happening here is tied to towns across not only New Jersey, but the country. And now I'm in the thick of it, and I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing." You can read more of her blog at "Mother Crusader" here.

This is an excerpt from her latest blog: Is the suburban charter school battle Christie's Waterloo?

On Dec. 22, WNYC's new Managing Editor for New Jersey Nancy Solomon and New Jersey native and WNYC investigative journalist Bob Hennelly participated in a discussion on the Brian Lehrer show called New Jersey Confirmation Battle.  It was an intelligent discussion of the issues regarding Senator Rice's block of Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf's appointment.  At no time was Senator Rice called a conspiracy theorist.  Instead, Nancy Solomon detailed Cerf's long history of involvement with for-profit companies that contract with public school districts.  

Bob Hennelly pointed out that what Senator Rice is looking for is more transparency in the Newark schools.  Hennelly stated that Christie "escalated" the issue by refusing to appoint judges in Essex County Courts.  Hennelly made it very clear that Rice is merely holding back a title from Cerf.  Cerf has the full responsibility of the job.  Remaining the Acting Commissioner only takes away his ability to speak before the legislature -- that's it.  However, Christie holding up judicial appointments creates real consequences in Newark.  Hennelly stated that Christie is just "one bad news cycle" away from real problems if a delayed divorce proceeding ends in some kind of violence...

There are two quotes from Nancy Solomon in this segment that need to be shouted from the rooftops.  One came as part of a discussion about who, other than Rice, is or isn't against Cerf's appointment.  The first caller, Bob from Mountainside, blamed the unions and the Democrats for the whole mess because Cerf is pro-charter and the Democrats are controlled by the unions, and the unions don't like Christie.  Hennelly made it clear that the issue is not nearly that clear cut politically.  Solomon countered and broke it down to the all too often unspoken apolitical issue at the heart of the matter:

"It's an ideological battle.  Do you want your public schools business done publicly or do you want private hedge fund managers donating money and making decisions?"

To wrap up the segment Lehrer asked Nancy Solomon if politically these are winning issues for Christie or the democrats.  She responded with another gem:

"The charter school issue is starting to really heat up big time in the suburbs, and suburban parents are really upset about money going to charter schools.  They don’t want it, and money is going from the public budget for schools into charter schools and I think that could turn into Christie’s Waterloo."

Hear the full radio broadcast here: The Brian Lehrer Show: New Jersey Confirmation Battle.

Matt Stewart December 27, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Any redistribution of local funds should be decided locally. State intervention in the local jurisdiction should only occur if and when local school boards demonstrate that they are not delivering a "thorough and efficient" education to our children. Failing local schools may be justification for the granting of a Charter. So too might a laboratory school or test school if what is learned in the lab will then get intergrated across the system. but...parent driven circumvention of local citizens by way of an unelected state commissioner in pursuit of niche education funded by all is indeed both undemocratic and un "republican"... conservatives believe in the separation of powers, respect for local jurisdiction, and should stand against any law or advocacy group that seeks to turn democracy on its head... "Boutique Charter Schools" amount to favored nation status within the social contract known as public education... want Mandarin instruction? either pay for it yourself...or get your community onside... no state commissioner should have the power to arbitrarily reallocate my tax dollars or anyone elses...this responsibility lies with our locally elected school boards...and that is where it should stay...as odd a construct as this may seem at times :)
Save Our Schools NJ December 28, 2011 at 11:56 AM
The legislation to require local approval for new charter schools, which passed the NJ Assembly last summer and is waiting approval by the NJ Senate, will be reintroduced in the new legislation session in January. This legislation has gained the support of 15 Senators and is rapidly approaching support from the 21 Senators needed for passage. As more communities realize how broken New Jersey's current charter school law is and push their legislators to take action, this bill will become law. You can help by signing our petition supporting this legislation. Every signature sends a letter to Senate President Sweeney and the members of the Senate Education Committee, letting them know that the people of New Jersey want local control over their public schools and their property taxes. The petition has more than 4,200 signers already. You can add your voice here: http://www.change.org/petitions/new-jersey-communities-want-local-control-over-new-charter-schools-2
Adam Kraemer December 28, 2011 at 12:02 PM
Even some supposedly good suburban schools often have one or more indicators of failure as per NCLB (No Child Left Behind - Federal Legislation). Thus options like charter schools will pressure the public schools to address these problems. Also our local schools run at a big expense to the taxpayers. Charter schools can be a force on the public schools into fiscal reform. Public schools do many good things for many students but even in suburban districts with with well regarded schools parents and students should have options besides move out of the district or pay tuition and school taxes at the same time.
Marian Raab December 28, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Talking about Waterloo, Millburn-Short Hills residents, please join us in Maplewood on Friday, Jan. 6 at 4:30 pm in a rally urging Commissioner Cerf to once REJECT the Hua Mei charter school application and support the much-needed charter school reform legislation that is currently stalled in the state senate. Thanks! Here's the Patch link to the event: http://patch.com/E-jW8p
KLF December 28, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Adam: So let's allow a local vote. If your premise is true, you can campaign for them in the local districts, then let the voters decide. You should sign the petition in support of the legislation that would allow the taxpayers to decide the fate of their school tax dollars. Then you are free to put forth your arguments and campaign in the local districts.
Susan1 December 28, 2011 at 05:15 PM
If the Hua Mei school is approved in January, I assume it will be grandfathered in before the legislation passes; is that correct?
Save Our Schools NJ December 28, 2011 at 05:58 PM
Not necessarily. The bill will be changed a bit when re-introduced and one of the issues that could be addressed in those changes is requiring local votes for schools that received initial approval from the Commissioner of Education but have not yet received their final charter.
Adam Kraemer December 28, 2011 at 10:39 PM
I will most likely be running for West Orange BOE in April 2012- I am in favor of school choice and charters - The voters can decide.
Marian Raab December 28, 2011 at 11:38 PM
And talking about petitions, please sign our petition urging Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf to once again REJECT the Hua Mei charter school. http://www.change.org/petitions/nj-education-commissioner-chris-cerf-reject-the-hua-mei-charter-school-application Thanks for all your support and signatures!
wohopeful December 29, 2011 at 03:18 AM
Wow Ms. Raab, up to 550 signatures. How many we're you hoping to get again?
Jim December 29, 2011 at 10:24 AM
I don't think that "reformers" who are clearly corrupt will gain much traction in privatizing the schools.
Jim December 29, 2011 at 10:53 AM
I believe that the public schools are, as James B. Conant wrote in Education and Liberty, responsible for much of our success in assimilating the diverse populations that emigrated to the United States. The public schools are an important stabilizing and conserving force in American society.
Adam Kraemer December 29, 2011 at 11:56 AM
@Portmanteau: (1) Those who favor charter schools and school choice are not corrupt. You are free to agree or disagree but asserting that people and ideas are "clearly corrupt" without proof does not help your side in this debate. (2) Just because a school is a traditional public school does not make it a better school. The test result clearly show that. (3) With deference to late great James B Conant, a graduate of the elite and non public Roxbury Latin School, those who support school choice and charter schools see choices and options for the public as part of our core American values.
Gary Englert December 29, 2011 at 03:42 PM
@ Adam Kraemer: Do know that I will be doing my level best to insure any such candidacy ends in another resounding defeat.
Jim December 29, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Core Values? Like when you come to our country you learn the English language. We do not spend tax money to set up a boutique school where Americans can learn the language of a corrupt communist regime. Shall I continue?
john prignano December 29, 2011 at 07:05 PM
Adam Best of luck . . My family has voted for you . Here is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt : "Far better it is to dare mighty things , to win glorious triumphs , even though checkered by failure..... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much , because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat "
Gary Englert December 29, 2011 at 07:32 PM
Golly, gee whillikers!!! A John Prignano endosrsement is sure to help and candidate gain office...NOT!
Jim December 29, 2011 at 10:33 PM
I believe that once the schools are politicized, they lose something vital. Let's take you and your interest in the school board. As a perpetual candidate you seem to know very little about schools. You simply have a political axe to grind. So the completely uniformed can "influence" an entity that simply does not benefit from the whims of politicians. Real academic leadership is needed, but by those with some expertise to contribute.
Adam Kraemer December 30, 2011 at 01:29 AM
@ Portmanteau: Let me respond (1) An M.A. and M.Ed from Teachers College Columbia University and six years teaching secondary social studies and three kids in the public schools makes me some what of an expert on this topic. (2) Public schools funded by tax dollars are subject to control by elected political officials so politics legitimately comes into play. (3) Cultural diversity and cultural pluralism fit within what I was taught about American values:
Adam Kraemer December 30, 2011 at 01:36 AM
@ Gary -Education and democracy is about trying a going out in to the market place of ideas with what you think and what you believe. Good luck to who ever you end up suporting and I look forward to a spirited debate with that person.
Jim December 30, 2011 at 03:40 AM
That seems like a lot of education about education, yet why only 6 years in the field? And why pretend like a failed program like NCLB is even a talking point right now? baffling.
Adam Kraemer December 30, 2011 at 12:04 PM
@ Portmanteau - NCLB set valid standards in education to justify increased federal educational spending. It is the law of the land. Local school officials may not like it because it holds them accountable. It was supported in 2001 when it passed by leaders from George Bush to Edward Kennedy. If areas of NCLB are not passed that is a valid reason for parents to send a child to a charter school. School districts like West Orange and Maplewood - South Orange are not passing every aspect of NCLB. Even Livingston and Millburn have had NCLB compliance issues.
Jim December 30, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Adam if you are a true libertarian and I aspire to be one...but cannot break old habits, you would note that the Federal Dept of Education is a dubious waste of money and the funds are better left to the state. But, fairness and good sense must prevail and unfortunately those commodities, you know exist in finite quantities. The best tend to find work in more lucrative fields. The best being "quantified" of course by our illustrious schools. Okay so here's the rub Adam. Your credentials are very, very impressive. Anyone would be proud to have achieved, just try to root your arguments in reality.


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