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Lyndsey Layton wrote a compelling account in the “Washington Post” about Governor Chris Christie’s calamitous and non-productive attempt to burnish his credentials as a school reformer in Newark.
Five years ago , Christie boasted that he would turn Newark into a national model of school reform. He and then-Mayor Cory Booker persuaded Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million for such reforms as merit pay and charters. Christie and his then-state Commissioner Chris Cerf.
What’s happened in the past five years has not enhanced Christie’s reputation as a reformer. His appointee as superintendent, Cami Anderson, has alienated students, educators, parents, the clergy, and legislators. Her plan, One Newark, was imposed without community support. Ras Baraka was elected mayor in large part because of Anderson’s unpopularity.
“Five years after Christie launched what could have been a career-defining policy initiative for an aspiring future president, city leaders are in revolt. On Wednesday, a band of city, county and state elected officials, along with leaders from the NAACP and others, will board a train bound for Washington for a meeting with Obama administration officials. Newark parents have filed a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, alleging that the plan, called “One Newark,” disproportionately affects African Americans, and the local officials plan to ask the administration to help halt a plan they say has thrown their city into chaos.
“The plan, which fully took effect during this academic year, essentially blew up the old system. It eliminated neighborhood schools in favor of a citywide lottery designed to give parents more choices. It prompted mass firings of principals and teachers, and it led to numerous school closures and a sharp rise in the city’s reliance on charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.
“Many families saw their children spread among multiple schools or sent across town. The scattering has been problematic for a city divided along gang lines, where four in 10 residents don’t own cars.
“In addition, state test scores have stayed the same or even declined. Amid protests, Christie’s hand-picked Newark superintendent, Cami Anderson, faces calls for her removal — even from some of her onetime allies.”
Newark is turning out to be a drag on Christie’s presidential ambitions, says Layton.
What’s astonishing is to read defenders of “reform” finding silver linings or straws to grasp at. Some claim that Cami has plenty of supporters, others say that success is around the corner. Just be patient. Christie’s state commissioner says, “Christie, through a spokesman, declined to comment. According to Christie’s education commissioner:
“It will take time to see the type of progress we all want,” he said. “Whatever we’re doing, we need to double down.”
Astonishing. If they double down, they are likely to face open rebellion from the parents of Newark.
Christie, in his typical bully style, makes clear that he doesn’t care what the people of Newark think. He likes her and that is all that matters. He just reappointed her for another one-year term.
Anderson is paid nearly $300,000 a year. In 2011, Christie capped superintendents’ salaries at $125,000-175,000, depending on the size of the district. Charter school leaders and Cami Anderson are exempt from the state salary cap.