Newark Mayoral Candidates Square off on Education Reform

PolitickerNJ has been all over the increasingly contentious Newark mayoral contest, which it describes as a “proxy for a potential gubernatorial race.” On Wednesday North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, Jr. and Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif dropped out, which leaves two candidates:  South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka and Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries. Each of NJ’s two wings of the Democratic Party have chosen their candidates: Jersey City Mayor City Steve Fulop, Sen. Dick Cody, and ex-Sen. Barbara Buono are cheering for Baraka while the Joe DiVincenzo/George Norcross caucus lines up behind Jeffries.

Baraka, son of the famous anti-Semite Amiri Baraka, does double-duty as principal of Central High School in Newark and South Ward Councilman. (Question: does anyone know a high school principal who doesn’t work 24/7? Baraka must be a superman.) Jeffries is associate professor at the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall and serves on the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board.

No issue captures this battle for Newark better than education reform so  Wednesday’s debate, moderated by  Derrell Bradford, Executive Director of Better Education for Kids, was especially timely. Baraka is ardently opposed to Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson’s reforms, particularly her One Newark plan, which streamlines parents’ ability to choose among Newark’s public schools, charter or otherwise, and closes down half-empty schools. Jeffries takes a more moderate position, arguing for more community engagement in the reform process and a slowing down of planned school closures. He adds, “the superintendent needs to do better. If not, we have to get a new superintendent."

And here’s Baraka at the education debate:
"Leadership has to have to the courage to go in the room with people who disagree with what you say. That's what democracy is about, and if we are fighting for education, then we are fighting for democracy. We need to have a superintendent who is willing to do that."
I’m not sure what this means: something like “true leaders stand up to opponents and that’s the definition of democracy.” Wouldn’t that qualify Anderson as a courageous leader? Who does it disqualify? Lemmings?

Let’s try again. Democracy is about fighting and disagreement.  Leadership is about standing up to those who disagree with you. Leadership is democracy. Therefore, fighters are democratic leaders.

I’m lost in tautology but maybe that’s from shoveling too much snow. Or shoveling something.