Just like Cain and Abel, you pulled a sneak attackThese lyrics from Mel Brooks' eternally newsworthy play “The Producers” sums up the sentiments of Trina Scordo, executive director of New Jersey Communities United, who in today's NJ Spotlight bemoans Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s chameleon-like views of public charter schools. A fierce foe during his recent successful campaign against Shavar Jeffries, Baraka now oscillates between tepid support and outright opposition, and this unreliability is anathema to a group that is unequivocally anti-choice.
I thought that we were brothers
Then you stabbed me in the back"
Betrayed! Oh boy, I'm so betrayed
Scordo and NJ Communities United, along with their fellow travelers Newark Teachers Union, AFT, NJEA, Save Our Schools-NJ, Education Law Center, and former Star-Ledger journalist Bob Braun, who all campaigned for candidate Baraka, have been betrayed.
The organized force of Newark residents put Ras Baraka in office, and provided him the authority and power he needed to push back on Christie’s dream of a corporate-backed Wall Street takeover of our public schools. Cami Anderson was unceremoniously deposed. A plan for opening locally controlled community schools was put forward as an alternative to charter expansion. And a there was a commitment to return to local control.
Mayor Baraka has decided that cutting deals with the Wall Street-influenced charter school industry is more politically expedient than following the will of the people.An astute commenter on Scordo's editorial writes, "I do not understand. How did TRINA SCORDO put Mayor Baraka into office, she does not even live in Newark!"
In addition, Scordo fails to note that “the will of the people” in Newark, as it would be in any long-struggling district, is in favor of more quality public school seats regardless of governance model. During Newark Public Schools’ most recent universal enrollment cycle, charter schools were the top choices.. Currently, 20,000 Newark schoolchildren sit on charter school waiting lists.
Scordo must have submitted her anti-Baraka editorial to NJ Spotlight before she read in today’s Star-Ledger that Mayor Baraka is outraged by the recent announcement that the State Department of Education approved two new charter schools in Newark and the expansion of several others, including the popular North Star Academy (Uncommon), Robert Treat, and TEAM (KIPP).
In a statement the Mayor said, “"Governor Christie's approval of the expansion of Newark charter schools is a terrible decision, unfortunate, irresponsible and damaging to the city's public schools. The expansion could not have come at a worse time."
(Actually, Gov. Christie, although a useful political-foil for Baraka, didn’t approve the expansions because he’s currently preoccupied with staring into the abyss that is Donald Trump. Anyway, N.J. charter school law limits charter authorization to the D.O.E., not the governor.)
Barbara Martinez, chief external officer at Uncommon’s Newark campus, which will add 2,000 seats, “respectfully disagreed” with Baraka. "We think that having more high-quality seats for kids helps all of the children of Newark," she said. "In addition, thousands of Newark families are demanding even more charter school seats.”
Meanwhile, Baraka is hoisted by his own petard: pandering to his campaign supporters pre-election while searching for a tenable position on school choice post-election. In a sign that his erstwhile boosters are not tolerant of moderation, New Jersey Communities United just announced that it will not support a "Unity Slate" comprised of three candidates for the Newark School Board.
From NJCU's statement:
The “Unity Slate” does not represent the democratic interests of Newarkers and this approach raises serious concerns for the students, parents and teachers that make up our membership. We are troubled by the Mayor’s decision to support this slate, especially given the recent approval of the Uncommon Charter school and with the looming expansion of five more KIPP charter schools in Newark.The group says they'll back Baraka's pick, Leah Owens, who works for NJCU, but not the other two candidates, Kim Gaddy and Tave Padilla. Why? Because they've been betrayed.