White Knight Rescues Afterschool Program

Talk about a political headache: New Jersey After 3, the afterschool program for poor kids, has been rescued from oblivion (via state aid cuts) by the hedge-fund manager that the education establishment loves to hate, David Tepper.

According to media reports (Star-Ledger, NJ Spotlight, Philadelphia Inquirer) NJ After 3 was on the brink of closing its doors to the 75,000 children it serves when Mr. Tepper announced that he would be donating an “undisclosed sum” to keep the program up and running. Private money isn’t new to NJ After 3 – it’s always operated through a combination of state money and philanthropy – but Tepper is also a co-founder of a new non-profit called Better Education for New Jersey Kids (B4K), which promotes a pro-education reform agenda and is specifically critical of teacher unions.

Tepper has gotten a lot of attention lately. Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger had a widely-circulated editorial last week in which he described the “growing resentment” among NJ Democratic politicians towards wealthy benefactors. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver:
“This is about urban districts that are primarily black and Latino,” she says. “And from the 1960s until the present, there has been suspicion on the part of disadvantaged communities when people who are not from their community seek to impose, in a very paternalistic way, some sort of social engineering.”
Moran adds,
Leaders of the teachers union are doing what they can to fan these suspicions. And true to form, they are swinging wildly, suggesting that Tepper is pushing for private control of schools so he can make money.
“The real purpose is to turn New Jersey’s public schools over to private companies and corporations,” says [NJEA Executive Director Vince] Giordano. “I guess $5 billion is not enough, and he wants to make more money.”
Social engineering? Profiteering? Really? Then again, politicians are no sticklers for precision. Here’s today's press release from Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) on Tepper's contribution to NJ After 3: “it’s great that NJ After 3 will be saved;” however, “It's also interesting that the organization the Governor has chosen to take over the reigns [sic? Pun?} of the NJ After 3 program is run by wealthy hedge fund managers who have spent millions of dollars on ads singing his praises.”

Then again, Assemblywoman Huttle made headlines last month over some imprecision:
"A hundred and sixty thousand kids stay home every day because they are afraid to go to school because of bullying," Vainieri Huttle said at a Sept. 6 news conference in Fort Lee. "These are the kids that we are concerned with this morning. These are the kids that we need to give that message to this morning, that they will be protected."

Vainieri Huttle repeated the statistic in an interview on NJTV that aired the same day as the news conference, but applied the number to New Jersey.

"And it certainly now is a mandate for all school districts to follow a course in anti-bullying and helping these kids get through those difficult years when, quite frankly, in New Jersey, there's like 160,000 kids that stay home from school each day because they're afraid to go to school," she said.

"Because of bullying?" NJTV’s Joanna Caplan Gagis asked Vainieri Huttle.

"Because of bullying," Vainieri Huttle replied.

Vainieri Huttle’s spokeswoman, Andrea Katz, said the assemblywoman "misspoke" on NJTV. "She meant the United States," Katz said.

Still, the statistic is questionable even on a national level.
Oops. Anyway, it's a shame that we can't just be flat-out grateful that someone with money bailed out NJ After 3. The back-handed paranoaic jabs just sound petty.