Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Don't Like Chris Christie? Blame the Democrats.

Yesterday Diane Ravitch published a piece in The New Republic, titled Don't Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats.

If you care about public education at all, it's a must read. 

When I heard today that Senate President Sweeney is paving the way for Governor Christie, the least popular governor in the country, to replace three of the State Board of Education members who aren't 100% blind Christie loyalists, a mere six months before a gubernatorial election, I instantly thought of Diane's piece.

It's critical to remember that every awful thing Chris Christie has done to public education during his tenure has been done either with the direct assistance of the Democratic majority, or with their complicit silence. 

And the State Board of Education hasn't stood in Christie's way, either - until February
In a rare rejection of a Gov. Chris Christie proposal, the state Board of Education on Wednesday shot down his controversial plan to experiment with lower certification standards for charter school teachers and principals. 
The board voted 5-2 with one abstention to remove Christie's proposed five-year pilot program from his promised charter school deregulation package.
Three of the board members that cast no votes, including the president and vice-president of the board, are on the brink of being removed from their seats, likely because of this vote.

This narrative from Save Our Schools New Jersey's Facebook page explains what's about to happen.

SHAME ON YOU Senate President Steve Sweeney!!!

Tomorrow, the Democratically-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to put 3 Christie nominees on the State Board of Education for 6 years, replacing three current Board Members who vote more independently.

This will give Christie complete control of that important board once again.

The three Board members that Sweeney is replacing all voted against the regulations allowing for unqualified charter school teachers. With them gone, Christie will be able to bring those awful regulations up for a vote once more as well as any other destructive regulations that he can come up with over the next eight months.

What did Senate President Steve Sweeney get in exchange for hurting NJ children in this way?

Here's what those three board members told the Star Ledger after they cast their no votes on allowing uncertified teachers teach in charter schools:

Board President Mark Biedron:
"Out in the education community, I couldn't find anybody who thought this was a good idea other than, and I understand, the charter school organizations."
Board member Edith Fulton:
"There was nothing as controversial as what we dealt with today. The proposal is not legitimate."

Board Vice-President Joe Fisicaro was asked if the board had ever rejected a Christie proposal. Here's what he said:

"I don't remember ever doing it."

The real crime is that Biedron, Fisicaro and Fulton are the only three board members who not only regularly stay to hear public comment after board meetings, they actually listen to the public and engage with them. If other board members bother to stay, this is their typical level of engagement.

State BOE member Andrew Mulvihill
at a 2/10/16 meeting
Here's what Mulvihill had to say about the charter regulations that were voted down (hint, he wasn't one of the no votes).
Let's take a chance and back these guys up with what they want to do. It makes sense.
I have often been disappointed in the board's seeming inability to stand up to the administration, but it's now as plain as day that disagreeing with Christie and the all powerful charter school lobby is just not an option.

It is no surprise that Christie would exact this type of revenge on board members that dared to oppose him, but why are the Democrats playing along? 

Which brings us back to Diane's amazing piece about the Democratic Party's collusion on charters. 

She writes:
when DeVos was confirmed by a vote of 51 to 50, over unanimous Democratic opposition, Senator Cory Booker went on Facebook, “frustrated and saddened,” to sound a sorrowful note: “Somewhere in America, right now, there is a child who is wondering if this country stands up for them.” 

Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades. 
New Jersey, it's time to wake up. This is just the latest example of establishment Democrats in this state not standing by our public schools. If you're as sick of it as I am, call the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow. Light up those phone lines like phone lines were lit up after Betsy DeVos showed her incompetence at her confirmation hearing.

If Steve Sweeney won't stop Christie's anti-public education agenda, Senate Democrats must. And if they won't, me must vote them out.

Here are the members of the committee and their phone numbers. Start calling now.

Judiciary Committee 
Nicholas P. Scutari (D) - Chair     (908) 587-0404
Nia H. Gill (D) - Vice-Chair           (973) 509-0388
Christopher Bateman (R)            (908) 526-3600
Gerald Cardinale (R)                   (201) 567-2324 or (862) 248-0491
Michael J. Doherty  (R                 (908) 835-0552 or (908) 722-2427
Joseph M. Kyrillos (R)                 (732) 671-3206
Raymond J. Lesniak, (D)             (908) 624-0880 or (908) 327-9119
Kevin J. O'Toole, (R)                    (973) 237-1360
Nellie Pou (D)                                (973) 247-1555
Paul A. Sarlo, (D)                         (201) 804-8118
Bob Smith (D)                               (732) 752-0770   
Brian P. Stack (D)                         (201) 721-5263 or (201) 376-1942
Loretta Weinberg (D)                   (201) 928-0100