Thursday, July 5, 2012

Newark Charter School Fund: What Role Do They Play In The Newark Charter School Takeover?

NJ Spotlight, the Star Ledger and Jersey Jazzman have all covered the "news" that Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson overruled the vote of the ELECTED Advisory Board to reject Anderson's plan to lease district school buildings to charters.  

Chairperson of the Advisory Board, Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, spoke with NJ Spotlight. 

The chairman of the local board last night was very critical of the decision.
“The board members took this issue of leasing very, very seriously,” said Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, recently elected as the board’s chairman. “At this point, what has happened is that the democratic rights of the voters we represent have been totally disrespected.”  (Emphasis mine)
Jersey Jazzman has already done a great job showing how outrageous it is that the Newark public schools are caught in a Chinese finger trap where no matter how hard they may struggle to get free of the state, the state's hold on the district only gets tighter.  
Jersey Jazzman also pointed out how unsurprising it is that Newark Mayor Corey Booker jumped behind Anderson's decision, using the same tired lines as Cerf, Anderson, and every other reformer in the state about "creating high-quality school options."  
I guess it doesn't sound as good to come right out and say they are privatizing public education.
But wait!  There is another voice in the choir singing the praises of "high-quality school options!"  
Let's take a look at the quotes from Newark Charter School Fund CEO Mashea Ashton in both the NJ Spotlight and Star Ledger pieces.   
(For the record, John Mooney and Jessica Calefati didn't reach out to her to get quotes, she put out a press release.  Here it is in it's entirety.)
Mashea Ashton, the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund, issued the following statement regarding Newark School's Superintendent Cami Anderson's decision to veto the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board's vote on charter school leases. 
"Superintendent Cami Anderson should be applauded for making the tough decision to veto the school advisory board. Her decision to approve charter leases will expand the number of high quality public school options for all Newark students.
"Although the superintendent in Newark has the power to veto the advisory board, we believe this power should be exercised judiciously. In this case, it was without a doubt the right decision. It does not make sense for the district to maintain half-empty buildings while high-performing charters as well as new charters poised for breakthrough results cannot find space in the city to educate Newark children.
"What has become lost in this debate is that charter schools are public schools, funded with public dollars, educating the same Newark children as traditional district schools. It's time to put politics aside and move forward with this plan that will benefit all students in Newark."
Time to put politics aside!?!  More like time to put local control aside and force districts under state control to step aside while charters take over.  
Mashea Ashton is the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund, having joined the organization as a partner in February 2009. Before joining NCSF, Mashea served as the Executive Director for the New York Program and Senior Advisor for Charter School Policy for New Leaders for New Schools. Mashea has also served as the Executive Director for Charter Schools for the New York City Department of Education, the National Director of Recruitment and Selection for the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), and as a special education teacher in Williamsburg, VA and Washington, DC.  (Emphasis mine)
That puts Ms. Ashton at the NYC DOE at the same time as Acting Commissioner Cerf for at least a year, if not more.  No big surprise that they are both advocates of charters taking over public schools since this practice is rampant in NYC.  
And what is the Newark Charter School Fund?  John Mooney describes it as "an advocacy and funding group for the city’s burgeoning charter school network," but let's take a peek at their website and see where their funding comes from.
NCSF was started with $18 million from national education foundations. NCSF’s founding sponsors — Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, The Robertson Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation — each contributed $4 million in the spring of 2008 to establish NCSF. NCSF expects to raise an additional $2 million in national funding and to close out its initial funding base at $20 million. NCSF’s initial funding base will probably be dispersed over the next three to four years in support of Newark’s charter school sector.  (Emphasis mine)
Yeah, but Senator Ron Rice is a conspiracy theorist when he says that Newark's schools are being privatized.  They are pretty clear here that the money from the Billionaire Boys Club is to benefit the "charter school sector," not ALL of Newarks students.  But above Ms. Ashton claims that Anderson's plan will "benefit ALL students in Newark."  I think the folks in Chester Upland would beg to differ that the unchecked spread of charters is good for ALL students.

The district’s fiscal woes are the product of a toxic brew of budget cuts, mismanagement and the area’s poverty. Its problems are compounded by the Chester Community Charter School, a nonprofit institution that is managed by a for-profit company and that now educates nearly half of the district’s students.
The district sees the charter as a vampire, sucking up more than its fair share of scarce resources. The state, it says, is giving the charter priority over the district. 
“It’s not competition, it’s just draining resources from the district,” said Catherine Smith, a principal at Columbus Elementary, a district school. “It’s a charter school on steroids.” (Emphasis mine)
And I would contend that, with the convergence of the reform money pouring into the Newark Charter School Fund, the political clout of Mayor Booker, and the audacity and unaccountability of Acting Commissioner Cerf and his protege Cami Anderson, Newark's charters are poised to take over Newark in very short order.  
We all need to get behind the people of Newark to help get their voices heard. 
And fast.

No comments:

Post a Comment