Today’s NJ Advance Media article (i.e., Star-Ledger) notes this July marks the 20th anniversary of state control of Newark. Over the last two decades, the article notes, Newark student academic growth has increased (although no one would argue it's enough). For the record, the graduation rate is up 15% (from 53.9% in 1993 to 68.6% in 2013) and SAT scores are up from 311 and 363 in verbal and math to 392 and 408 in verbal and math over the last twenty years. Spending per pupil is currently $22,267, up from an inflation-adjusted $18,084 in 1993.
Here are a few highlights from the piece, as well as excerpts from the links to three articles from the Star-Ledger archives; it's worth reading the whole package. Two of those three archived articles, by the way, were written by Robert Braun, now known as Bob and Newark’s staunchest defender of the status quo.
- Paul Tractenberg, founder of the Education Law Center that litigated the Abbott cases and won fair funding for 31 poor urban school districts, remembers that “ a central legal argument of the state was that urban students were not suffering because of lack funding but because of local school boards' mismanagement.”
- Bob Curvin, civil rights leader and scholar: "The state compliance investigation revealed horrors that in my mind were shameful and manifested a pitiful lack of concern on the part of leaders throughout the system for the children. Anyone who argues that the state takeover had nothing to do with the quality of education in Newark at the time is simply not telling the truth or is intentionally ignorant."
- In 1993 the Comprehensive Compliance Investigation (CCI) report of NPS "outlined low student test scores, high dropout rates, questionable expenditures of public funds and crumbling buildings with health and safety hazards, including a lack of such bare essentials as doors on lavatory stalls. In classroom after classroom, toilet paper sat on teachers' desks to be doled out individually to students on lavatory breaks, according to the report.”
- Education Commissioner Leo Klagholz said at the time, ''There have been instances in the past where textbooks were not ordered until October, '' Klagholz said. ''For us to do those things properly is prerequisite. I think the budget for Newark ($540 million) is more than adequate. The problem in the past has been how the money has been spent.''
- The Newark School Board argued that the state takeover violated their constitutional rights to hold office (although, for example, Saidi Nguvu, a former Parent Teacher Association president at University High School, said he is ''100 percent'' in favor of state intervention).
- But the articles cite the “lavish perks” of the board and the “abysmal” and "harrowing" state of the schools and the academic preparation of students: Sally Ann Fields, the senior state deputy attorney general, said, ''the first world is that of the children who are subjected to substandard facilities and poorly equipped classrooms and libraries...The second world is that of the board of education of Newark. The board's world is comprised of the finer things in life, such as travel to Honolulu, St. Thomas and San Francisco, dinners at fine restaurants, new cars and flowers.' Also, expense accounts show that ''the Newark board of education, in addition to being well-traveled, is well-fed.'' The board maintained ''house accounts'' in 32 restaurants in Newark and surrounding cities. "During the 1992-93 school year, the board members charged $12,631.40 for meals - including one bash for new board members on May 7, 1993, that cost $5,399.25. A year before, the new board member party cost the city $4,593.80."
- Braun also writes that among “20 of the 38 Newark schools with eighth grades, not one eighth-grader passed the state's so-called Early Warning Test (EWT) last year” and, in describing the deplorable conditions of the 18th Avenue School, notes that a videotape showed “workers ''stripping and painting the walls in the hallway while classes were in session...Paint scrapings were falling throughout the affected area. The persons painting were wearing protective masks, while students and teachers in the area were not given protective masks.''
- The first superintendent hired by the State was Beverly Hall, who was there until 1999. (She was then appointed Superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools, where she worked until 2010. In 2009 American Association of School Administrators named her Superintendent of the Year. In 2013 she was indicted in Georgia on charges of racketeering, making false statements, theft, influencing witnesses, and conspiracy in relation to a test-cheating scandal. She died in March of breast cancer.)
- And a surprising admission from Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who won his office by turning the election into a referendum on Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson: "This whole fight over Cami Anderson is really about the state. It's not really even about her," Baraka said. "It's time for the state to go."
Labels: DOE, Newark