Save Our Schools New Jersey posted this press release–and accompanying joint letter to legislators from Susan Cauldwell at SOSNJ and David Sciarra at the Education Law Center–this morning:
PARENT ADVOCATES CALL ON LEGISLATURE TO HALT UNPRECEDENTED EXPANSION OF UNACCOUNTABLE CHARTER CHAINS IN CAMDEN
Senate President Stephen Sweeney is poised to pass S2264, legislation that amends the 2013 Urban Hope Act in order to accommodate illegally approved renaissance charter schools in Camden. Senator Sweeney is bringing this legislation to a full Senate vote on Monday, September 22, without first introducing it in committee. This legislation was already snuck through the Legislature once in late June.
“The handwriting is on the wall,” said Susan Cauldwell, Executive Director of Save Our Schools NJ Community Organizing.
“If the legislature allows this undemocratic transfer of Camden public education to private control, district schools will be forced to close, and the education of Camden schoolchildren and the oversight of hundreds of millions of our tax dollars will be in the hands of entities that are unaccountable to New Jersey families and taxpayers.”
“The people of New Jersey deserve more transparency and accountability from their elected officials, especially when our children’s futures are at stake,” Ms. Cauldwell added.
Last spring, Commissioner of Education David Hespe approved renaissance school proposals submitted by out-of-state charter chains, Mastery and Uncommon, knowing they did not comply with the current Urban Hope Act law.
Save Our Schools NJ objected to the illegal Mastery and Uncommon approvals in three letters to the Commissioner. In what appears to be an acknowledgment of the validity of these objections, a bill amending the Urban Hope Act to allow some of Mastery and Uncommon’s illegal activity, was quickly passed through the Legislature in late June. That bill was vetoed by the Governor.
In August, after Senator Sweeney indicated that he would support a reintroduction of this legislation, Save Our Schools NJ and the Education Law Center sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto calling on him to reject the new UHA legislation. The two organizations recently sent the same letter to all State Legislators (please see below).
“The Camden school district currently turns over $72 million, or 26% of its budget, to charters, because of the new KIPP, Mastery and Uncommon schools that have opened this year. That number will continue to grow,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “We urge Legislators to oppose any expansion of the Urban Hope Act. The purpose of the act was to encourage construction of new school buildings in Camden, not to privatize public education in the district.”
What is happening in this state?! Let’s take a closer look:
Regular New Jersey
Bizarro New Jersey
|Legislators follow the laws that they themselves made.||Legislators change laws they made at a whim to suit their political and social ambitions—or to thwart lawsuits that expose and challenge illegal charter chain approvals.|
|Public hearings are part of the legislative process, and legislators have adequate time to review the legislation they’re voting on.
||Legislation goes up for a hasty vote without public hearings–and without adequate time for legislator review.|
|Tax dollars are used to fund traditional public schools, which are accountable to the State.||Tax dollars are shipped to out-of-state corporations that are subject to less oversight than traditional public schools.|
|Parents, students, and taxpayers have a say about education in their cities.|
|Public education is a cornerstone of a democratic society.||Public education is privatized without community input. What’s a democratic society?|
Yes: the New Jersey Bizarro World is very real. The Norcross/South Jersey political machine is alive and well–and backwards backroom deals are becoming the norm when it comes to shaping education policy. But that’s okay–because we all know that legislators, not parents and educators, know what’s best for children.
And let’s not forget that politicians are “the deciders” here in The Garden State.
“It’s like Bizarro Superman—Superman’s exact opposite who lives in the backwards Bizarro world. Up is down; down is up. He says ‘Hello’ when he leaves, ‘Goodbye’ when he arrives.”–Jerry Seinfeld
*Call, email, and tweet your legislators and tell them to vote “no”–and send a message to @NJSenatePres that shady backroom deals aren’t okay.