The New Jersey School Choice and Education Reform Alliance (NJSCERA) hosted a Statewide Conference on the Common Core Standards Initiative in Edison, New Jersey on Tuesday, October 21st. The event was moderated by Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute and John Mooney from NJ Spotlight–and was sponsored primarily by Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), an organization that was founded in 1999 by Peter Denton and Cory Booker to provide “a 360° comprehensive approach to urban educational reform and choice” and to explore and promote a voucher system that would use taxpayer dollars to privatize education in New Jersey.
This morning, Save Our Schools New Jersey posted video footage of the NJSCERA conference, which ended with Peter Denton stating his organization’s goals for Camden:
“We’re actually on a track to shut down the traditional Camden public school system. And in five to seven years it literally might not exist anymore.”
Please watch this 30 second video.
In it, Peter Denton refers to the intentional and imminent shutting down of all public schools in Camden!
Peter Denton is the Chair of the Board of E3, the group he created with his wife and with Cory Booker, for the purpose of advocating for taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay for private and religious education.
This comment took place at an October 21, 2014 conference that E3 hosted to discuss the Common Core in New Jersey.
Mr. Denton’s comments come seconds after Commission of Education David Hespe completed his own remarks and minutes after New Jersey Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Prieto spoke.
The destruction of all public schools in Camden is being forcibly carried out by the Christie Administration’s state controlled superintendent, with the strong support of the South Jersey democratic political machine of George Norcross.
Commissioner Hespe and the Camden Superintendent have repeatedly denied that they are intentionally destroying public education in the city.
Yet here, their close ally speaks honestly about the fact that this is exactly what they are doing.
The people of Camden, overwhelmingly Black and Brown and very low income, have been completely disenfranchised. As residents of the only state-controlled district without even an elected Board of Education, they have had no voice whatsoever in whether their public schools are privatized.
The people of New Jersey as a whole have had no say either.
The entire four hour video of the event is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKPYh5P2HDY These remarks were made in the closing minutes of the event.
It’s becoming increasingly clear, and Denton’s remarks are additional confirmation, that in urban districts across the country, “choice” is really a misnomer for the corporate takeover of public education that’s imposed on residents–mostly low-income and minority populations–who have no say in such educational decisions.
Last week, the Education Law Center revealed an alarming discrepancy in the number of reported and operating charter schools in New Jersey and highlighted the ways in which the Christie administration has ignored existing charter school laws in approving new charters across the state. Most recently, Mastery, Uncommon, and KIPP–all national charter chains–were approved to open 16 schools in Camden. (It’s important to note, too, that charter chains have pushed out home-grown charters that operated independently and locally.)
What does this mean for the children of Camden, who are being turned over to charters without their consent? Rutgers professor Stephen Danley explains that many of the district’s schools–even traditional public ones–are being compelled to institute “no excuses” discipline policies that charter chains like Mastery, Uncommon, and KIPP promote:
There has been a lot of attention, and rightfully so, to the opening and approval of new “No Excuses” charters in Camden. These schools have questionable pedagogical practices, and a putrid record of educating black males. But, as of the latest numbers of new “No Excuses” school attendees were only in the low 500s. Plenty of students remain in traditional public schools, and those schools are being forcibly remade in the image of charters. They are adopting “No Excuses”-style discipline, pedagogical methods, and even using assessment tests from Uncommon’s North Star Academy in Newark.
Such policies, which according to University of Pennsylvania professor Joan Goodman are implemented as early as kindergarten in “no excuses” schools, promote “submission” and “obedience”–and the schools that implement them have high attrition rates that disproportionately affect black boys. (See here for an account from a student at Mastery’s Lenfest campus in Philadelphia, where students are forced to wear demerit cards around their necks if their shirts are untucked, for example.)
What’s particularly striking about the push for corporate “no excuses” charter expansion is that while educational options like KIPP, Uncommon, and Mastery purport to give families educational “choices” that are superior to the experiences students would otherwise have at traditional public schools (which, by the way, have been so chronically underfunded and neglected by policymakers and educational leaders that many students don’t even have permanent teachers), students must “submit” in order to be test-prepped to produce acceptable scores on standardized tests. Ironically, students seem to have very little autonomy and very few “choices” within the walls of “no excuses” schools.
The question that persists, then–particularly when wealthy non-educators like Peter Denton and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie promote “no-excuses” schools in urban areas without community members’ consent or approval–is would policymakers who promote “no excuses” charters willingly send their own children to such schools?
As many have pointed out in the past, Governor Christie‘s sons attend Delbarton, a Catholic school in Morristown whose approach to discipline stands in stark opposition to the policies of “no excuses” schools (emphasis mine):
The School’s code eschews the exploitative, the manipulative, the coercive, or the negative and merely punitive approach to school discipline. The School honors the principle that the development of self-discipline and self-actualizing occurs in the young man who becomes increasingly aware of his own behavior and motivations, and more responsible to the needs of others, and more tolerant of their differences.
“Discipline must come through liberty . . . we do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.”
If proponents of education “reform” choose for their own children schools that value student autonomy and freedom, why would they impose the exact opposite on minority, impoverished, and urban students in cities like Camden and Newark? If proponents of education reform truly and fundamentally believe that harsh, negative, and punitive approaches to discipline are bad for their own children (and we can assume they do based on their “choice” of schools), how can they–in good conscience–claim that such policies are good for other people’s children?
Ultimately, the imposition of “no excuses” charters on urban communities without parental consent or input (or, as is the case in Camden, despite parental opposition)–coupled with the deliberate starving of traditional public schools–is a glaring example of the shameful farce we know better as “school choice.”
I don’t care about the community criticism,” Christie said. “We run the school district in Newark, not them.”