Bob Braun, recently unplugged from fact-finders at the Star Ledger and giddily flinging about allegations like confetti, is currently fixated on TEAM Charter Schools’ purchase of 18th Avenue School, which Newark Public Schools (NPS) closed in 2012 due to (according to NJ Spotlight) “declining enrollment, dilapidated conditions and low academic performance. “
I don’t know whether [Sen. Ronald] Rice can prove superintendent Cami Anderson’s sale of Newark’s 18th Avenue School to the leaders of the TEAM Academy Charter Schools involved criminal activity. I think it was worse than a crime. I think it was racism. I think it demonstrated contempt for poor, powerless people. But no one ever gets indicted for racism and contempt for the poor. In Newark, they just get good jobs working in the school system—or in private companies that sell their products to school systems.
Whoa, cowboy! NPS had an abandoned and unnecessary building on its hands because 25% of Newark parents have already chosen to place their kids in charter schools like TEAM, with many more on waiting lists. The charter group needs the building for its expansion, not NPS, so NPS sold it to TEAM.
Of course, Braun’s "story" has nothing to do with children or community or educational needs. Instead, he intends to boost his favored candidate in Newark’s mayoral race, Ras Baraka. Which makes his story really about how the domino effect of a Baraka victory could lead to the political "realignment" of North Jersey as power swings to Dick Codey and Sen. Rice (who pays $35K per year to send his kids to Pingry School so they shouldn't have to go to NPS) and away from George Norcross and Joe Divincenzo and that whole hot mess that is the Jersey Democratic Party. But let's stick to Newark.
Here are the facts:
- NPS didn’t want 18th Avenue School and didn’t need the space so it put the empty and dilapidated building out to bid.
- The only bidder was TEAM Charter Schools, the Newark/Camden arm of KIPP Charter Schools.. (Note on point: Shavar Jeffries, Baraka’s opponent in the mayoral race, was TEAM's founding board president.)
- Three independent appraisals of the building averaged out at $3.7 million, so TEAM bid that amount. NPS wanted $5 million, so they met in the middle: $4.35 million.
- The building requires $30 million in renovations in order to bring it up to code. TEAM is using a combination of federal stimulus money and historic tax credits. The historic tax credit piece requires the building owner to be a for-profit entity. TEAM is non-profit, so it created a for-profit company called PinkHulaHoop LLC, solely for the purpose of attaining federal funds.
Word is that Braun is working on a written version of NJ’s hottest parlor game, “Six Degrees of Separation from David Samson.” Samson, of course, is the Port Authority chairman in the middle of Bridgegate. (On Wednesday the NY Times Editorial Board said that Christie should fire Samson.) I won’t go any further into the weeds here but Braun says that Samson’s law firm, Wolff and Samson, was KIPP’s bond counselor for the purchase.
- This is legal. Not only is it legal, but it’s an efficient and innovative way to renovate schools. NJ's other option is the School Development Authority, which has built no buildings in the last four years yet managed to spend millions of dollars. Charter schools are supposed to model innovation, right? Maybe this is an example of innovative construction. Maybe SDA could pick up some tips from KIPP and actually build something.
Samson is evil. Ergo, every one of the 120 lawyers who work for Wolff and Samson is evil. Ergo, TEAM is evil. And, for good measure, so is mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, NJ Sens. Steve Sweeney, and Teresa Ruiz. So vote for Baraka.
Ah, Baraka, principal of Newark's Central High School, Councilman of the South Ward (18th Avenue School's neighborhood, where 80% of upcoming kindergarteners are on waiting lists for charter schools), front-runner mayoral candidate and silver-tongued role model for schoolchildren:
"Yes, I am. I sure is, my brother," said Baraka. "It’s time."