I'm staying off this bandwagon...
Back in March Diane Ravitch posted about Rutgers student activist Stephanie Rivera's candidacy for the New Brunswick school board, and asked readers to donate to her campaign. Diane reposted Stephanie's request for help, which talked a lot about the "political machine" in New Brunswick and how for the last 20 years the board has been appointed by the mayor.
Election Day is April 16, and there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then. We’ll be going up against the political establishment of New Brunswick, which until now has been appointing the Board of Education and depriving New Brunswick youth and the community of the justice and quality education they deserve. For the past 20 YEARS, board members have been appointed by the same guy: New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill. And unbelievably, this is the first year in New Brunswick’s HISTORY that the Board of Education is ELECTED.New Brunswick is right across the Raritan river from me, and I know Stephanie, but I stayed out of it and did not endorse her campaign, even after Save Our Schools NJ's Julia Sass Rubin jumped in and endorsed Stephanie, too.
First, because my husband teaches in New Brunswick, so I generally try not to get involved in things there. And second, because I didn't know her running mates.
But now I do, and MAN am I glad I stayed out of this one (well, until now obviously...). Stephanie is great, and she has done some amazing things, and I am sure she will go on to be a fine educator and advocate, but her slate is a hot mess and she needs to dump these people.
The Company You Keep
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Martin Arocho be censured as a school official found to have violated the School Ethics Act.Oh my.
But what is far more troubling is who Arocho has been rubbing elbows with as of late. In the last three years he has been trying to get back into a position of power in New Brunswick. In 2010 he ran for the City Council, on the ticket of Mayoral challenger Patricia Bombelyn. Luckily for New Brunswick, they lost.
New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill coasted to victory in the Democratic primary as he pursues a sixth term, easily defeating a spirited effort by attorney Patricia Bombelyn who waged a more than year-long grassroots campaign.Arocho also ran in the first school board election in January, and boy did he ever lose. He had the least votes of any other candidate. His campaign may not have resonated with voters, but he did have the support of former running mate Bombelyn.
Perhaps very few people voted for him because no one knew what he stood for.Mr. Arocho is backed by former mayor candidate Patricia Bombelyn. In the 2010 Democratic party primary, Arocho unsuccessfully sought a city council seat on Bombelyn's ticket.Four days ago, Bombelyn posted an endorsement of Arocho on her Facebook page: "Martin has the courage that is necessary to ensure that the interests of children come first, and he knows that successful outcomes are the best and most valid measure of good schools." (emphasis mine)
Of all the candidates, Mr. Arocho is the least specific about what policies he would support as a board member. "Martín believes in public education but understands that much needs to be revamped to make it the best," is the only substantive policy statement on his four-paragraph flier.
Arocho was also the only candidate that did not respond to the candidate questionnaire published by Unity Square.Man, those two sure seem to be beating around the bush about something, don't they?
Vouchers, vouchers and more vouchers
Does Bombelyn's name sound familiar to you? If you follow the dregs of the education reform movement, you may recall Bombelyn was one of the lawyers behind last year's E3 stunt in Camden where three parents appealed to the Commissioner to have their children removed from the public schools.
But administrative law judge Edward Delanoy didn't buy it.
Mere reliance on an overwhelmingly unfavorable general review of the District’s schools, without more, is not enough to establish that petitioners are not receiving a thorough and efficient education in each of their particular circumstances,” Delanoy wrote.
The petitioners, represented by advocates who have long pressed for private school vouchers in the state, said they would challenge Delanoy’s decision while continuing to pursue the larger class-action case.
“We are hopeful that the Commissioner of Education will carefully review this matter and place the immediate needs and interests of children ahead of the interests of a school district that has failed them for over a decade,” read the joint statement from lawyers Patricia Bombelyn and Julio Gomez.(emphasis mine)Yes indeed, Bombelyn and her husband, Martin Perez, are HUGE voucher pushers. In fact, Perez is on the board of E3. He is also the president of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey (LLA NJ), which recently endorsed Chris Christie. And it's not like they endorsed him on other issues and sidestepped his education policies, they FULLY embrace Christie's education reform agenda.
For over a decade, the Latino Leadership Alliance has fought with successive administrations for educational reform that ensures our children have access to high quality education, educational opportunity that breaks rather than perpetuates the cycle of poverty. In this arena, Governor Christie has been unrelenting in his commitment to our children's needs. Unlike any predecessor, he stepped directly into the ring with Trenton's educational establishment to fight for the education rights of Latino children stuck in dysfunctional schools. As a result, today, Latino parents have more educational choices because of the record number of high quality charter schools that have been opened and renewed under the Governor's administration. He also broke the stranglehold of tenure laws and policies that for years have protected adult interests at the expense of children. Now an educator's performance, rather than the passage of time, is what measures effectiveness, pay, and whether a person stays at the front of a classroom.
And, just earlier this week, in his budget address, the Governor again demonstrated his commitment to the fight for educational justice, by dedicating funds for an Opportunity Scholarship Pilot Project, while also providing more state aid for education than any previous administration. (emphasis mine)There you have it, the Holy Trinity of ed reform has come to New Brunswick. LLA NJ supports charters, vouchers, and teacher accountability measures.
The Voucher Cash Truck Backs Into New Brunswick
And in case you're thinking Bombelyn and Perez's connections stop at the NJ border, you're wrong. When Bombelyn and Arocho ran on the same ticket, their campaign received a $2,600 donation from the "New Jersey Federation for Children PAC."
Note the address; 1660 L ST, NW STE 1000, Washington DC. This just happens to be the address for the American Federation for Children. Who's behind it? Reformy glitterati such as Betsy DeVos.
And here comes the trickle down.
Between 2006 and 2010 Alliance for School Choice gave $113,500 to none other than Martin Perez's Latino Leadership Alliance. Not surprisingly E3, (remember Perez is on the board) is listed as their only ally in New Jersey.
In turn, the LLA NJ donated $2,700 to Bombelyn and Arocho's campaign.
A source tells me that LLA NJ has also donated to the Rivera, Monahan and Arocho slate. I have asked their campaign manager for a list of campaign contributions, but I haven't received a response, and contributions have not yet been reported to The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Arocho sorta kinda admits he's for charter and vouchers.
I attended a moderated public forum where the candidates, both the incumbents and the challengers, gave statements and answered questions. Luckily the moderator asked the question I submitted, which was "what is your position on charters and vouchers."
You can watch Arocho's and the other candidate's responses at about the 52 minute mark.
I believe in public schools, but I also believe in choices. I think if the public schools are not doing well, and right now we have in New Brunswick, some of the parents don't send their kids to the public schools in New Brunswick, they have a choice. And I think if the public schools would be doing well and our kids were learning and being successful, we wouldn't have a need for charter schools or any choice or any vouchers. So, that's my answer. - Martin ArochoDoes this sound like a guy you want on the board of a public school district?
You can judge for yourself, but I have to say, in my opinion, the mayor appointed board members are the clear choices in this election. They demonstrated their deep roots in and commitment to the district, as well as their depth of knowledge on the issues.
The challengers? Not so much.
It's important to note that the NBEA, the New Brunswick teachers union, has endorsed all three incumbents as well.
It's not too late to back out...
You have to wonder how an outspoken public school advocate like Stephanie Rivera got caught up in such a mess. It seems more than ironic that the student who stood up to DFER spawn Students For Education Reform is now caught up in a school board campaign with a guy whose previous campaign took money from a DFER related school choice group.
My hope for her is she disembarks this train wreck before she inadvertently gets out the Rutgers vote to elect a man who's been rejected by New Brunswick voters twice. It would be a travesty if Martin Arocho, Patricia Bombelyn and Martin Perez and their voucher loving backers were allowed to get a foothold on the New Brunswick Board of Education.
UPDATE: The New Brunswick Board of Education incumbents were returned to their seats. The voucher pushers will have to push vouchers somewhere else. And notice, Mr. Arocho was the lowest vote getter, once again.
Well played New Brunswick, well played...