For too long we've looked at charter schools and traditional public schools as separate. The great thing about Dr. (Clifford) Janey [Newark Superintendent] is he sees them as part of the same system ... that there is not one path but a need for an interwoven set of strategies.Newark Mayor (and guv-hopeful) Cory Booker in the Star-Ledger
Cory Booker is right: in an ideal world, charters and traditional public schools would be an "interwoven set of strategies," especially in Jersey towns plagued by poverty and educational malaise. But they're not. Instead, public charter schools and public traditional schools in N.J. engage in turf wars over state aid, students, facilities, staff. It's partly due to the NJEA leadership's fear of charter flexibility in regard to teacher compensation, length of work day and work years, and job security -- anathema to the union industrial model which regards teachers as interchangeable cogs on a wheel. It's partly due to the fact that the D.O.E. treats charters like a neglected child, allowing the traditional public schools to only send charters a portion of the cost per pupil (it's supposed to be 90%, it was really 78%, and now under S.F.R.A. it will be less than 65%) and setting up stringent restrictions on growth.
We won't find that finely-woven tapestry until the NJEA leadership and the D.O.E. can get over the us vs. them jingoism that defines the relationship between charters and traditional schools. The writing's on the wall (see this Boston Globe article today on Mayor Thomas Menino's conversion from charter disparager to charter advocate); President Obama's stimulus money for towns that foster charter school growth is a symptom rather than a cause.
Can NJEA whittle away at its entrenched opposition to charters? Can its leadership accept a new era of accountability and performance-based compensation? Can it adjust to a changing landscape? Can the D.O.E. give more than lip service to the advantages of charter schools in some neighborhoods?