This letter was sent yesterday from the organizations below to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and copied to all members of the Newark City Council. The signatories ask that Mayor Baraka "reject the scapegoating of any one group" -- i.e., public charter school students and their families -- as the source of all the district's fiscal problems. This letter can also be seen as a counterpoint to Mayor Baraka's December 17th letter to Ed. Comm. David Hespe. Baraka wrote, “I am writing to request that, at this time, your Office not approve any further expansion of enrollment in these or any other Newark Charter Schools…”
In the two weeks since Mayor Baraka's "December surprise" letter came to light (which echoes the talking points of the Newark Teachers Union and Education Law Center) reaction has been harsh. The Newark City Council immediately sent a letter to Comm. Hespe asking that he disregard Baraka's letter because ""parents in Newark should have the option of sending their children to the school of their choice" and "we can not deny our children the option of high quality public charter schools." Then Mayor Baraka, in an unprecedented move by a public official, took to YouTube to insist that it is “an outright lie that I want to close charter schools and we don’t want to expand," directly contradicting his letter to Comm. Hespe.
Here's the complete letter.
January 21, 2016
The Honorable Ras J. Baraka
Mayor of Newark
920 Broad Street
Newark, New Jersey 07012
Dear Mayor Baraka:
As community advocates and institutions committed to Newark, we have seen and been forced to address firsthand how under-funding has affected the many different public schools in our City – district, charter and magnet – and reject the scapegoating of any one group. Indeed, public charter schools in Newark are among the highest performing in the entire nation, despite receiving much lower funding than the district, and over the last two years, charter school funding in Newark has been cut more than that of any other type of public school. Rather than blaming our schools for causing the district’s financial issues, we should all be working together to restore everyone’s funding to where it should be according to the School Funding Reform Act of 2008.
Our financial situation affects all of us, because in Newark we stand together as one. If one of our children suffers, we all suffer. Each of our organizations has worked tirelessly through the years urging state policymakers to support full and fair funding for all Newark public schools - district, charter and magnet. We disagree with anyone who positions public charter children, parents and advocates as those who do not care about the entire City of Newark and prefer to work with you and Superintendent Cerf to address these issues facing all children aggressively and strategically.
As you know, in 2008, the New Jersey Legislature enacted a statewide weighted student formula, through the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). The formula was designed to deliver state and local funding to ensure every public school student was fully supported. The formula was designed to take into account changing enrollment patterns and aimed to deliver additional funding to support programs for students in poverty, limited-English proficient (LEP) students, and students with disabilities, regardless of where those students live. Unfortunately, since the student funding formula was put into law it still has not yet reached its full promise for the families of Newark due to the State’s fiscal challenges.
The facts on this issue are clear. The ideals and promise of SFRA were to ensure equal educational opportunities for all students. If Newark were fully and fairly funded, as mandated by law, all of Newark’s schools would be in a much different financial situation.
Tens of thousands of children and parents demand public options. We hope that you will provide leadership that represents the aspirations of all Newark parents and hope to continue a productive dialogue that will ensure high quality education for every public school - district, charter and magnet.
Better Education Institute – New Jersey
Black Alliance for Education Options – New Jersey
Democrats for Education Reform – New Jersey
Newark Charter School Fund
New Jersey Charter Schools Association
Parent Coalition For Excellent Education
The Honorable Mildred C. Crump, Newark City Council President
The Honorable Augusto Amador, Newark City Council
The Honorable John S. James, Newark City Council
The Honorable Carlos M. Gonzales, Newark City Council
The Honorable Anibal Ramos, Jr., Newark City Council
The Honorable Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, Newark City Council
The Honorable Joe McCallum, Newark City Council
The Honorable Eddie Osborne, Newark City Council
The Honorable Luis A Quintana, Newark City Council