Something is Changing in Newark: The Empowerment of Charter School Parents

On Monday night the Newark School Advisory Board held its monthly meeting, with an added feature of a Newark Teachers Union "walk-in" to protest charter school expansion. and lobby for a charter moratorium, despite 10,000 Newark children on waiting lists.  Nothing new there, just par for the course.

But, as John Mooney at NJ Spotlight reports,
A new dynamic has also entered the fray in the form of charter-school parents. About 30 filled the middle of the audience last night, and at times they directly confronted their schools’ critics in what has been at the center of debate in the city. 
A big crowd of charter-school families – some estimated there were as many as 400 people -- came out last week to speak in favor of the Uncommon Schools charter network’s bid before the city’s Planning Board to build a new school in the Central Ward. 
Several spoke during public comments last night -- a rare occurrence, as testimony has been consistently anti-charter. And when NTU President John Abeigon roamed the aisles of the high school auditorium to rev up his members, one charter parent confronted him: “What makes you so mad?
An NTU supporter shot back at the woman: “Go to your own meeting.” 
The charter advocate did not back down: “This is my meeting. I live in Newark, too.”

That's what's changing: parents of Newark charter school students are starting to fight back against the narrative circulated by bloggers like Bob Braun that these independent public schools skim off top students or are responsible for budget woes or are unwelcome in the city. These parents have a group called "Hands off Our Future Collective" and on Monday night they were bold enough to show up at the Board meeting.

Braun. of course, was horrified that "pro-charter school parents and leaders" showed up "to push back against increasing demands by pro-public school activists to slow the burgeoning growth of the privately-operated charter schools." He was even more offended that "many in the audience cheered one speaker who insisted charter school parents had a 'constitutional right' to send their children to publicly-funded but privately-operated schools."

I won't spend any more time on him. Let's turn to these empowered Newark parents and residents of the Hands off Our Future Collective:

Shennell McCloud: "WHY A FEW OF OUR PARENT JUST GOT MAD AT THE MEETING----- John Abiegon, head of the Newark Teachers Union, just came over to our group of Parents and said it's our fault Newark Public Schools are failing! Are we trying to work toward a brighter future for our children or a brighter future for the Newark Teachers Union?"

Nicole Harris: "[Over 60% of] Newark students are still performing  below proficiency in literary and math. Why aren't district parents screaming about that?"

Tish Johnson: "They have these kids [from the Newark Student Union, who were led by Robert Cabanas of NJ Communities United]  brainwashed about the wrong issues... They should be upset they are receiving a sub par education and won't be able to pass the HSPA and graduate from HS."

Haneef Auguste (in response to catcalls to "go to your own meeting): "Yes our schools. Ours defined as the children of Newark."

Flammyn Dezyre McGuire: "The woman said she doesn't care about the curriculum, she cares about the budget. Ummmmmmmmm!!!!!!!!!So as long as the money is there she's alright with the CHILDREN not being on their correct levels in reading and math. Smgdh."

Ben Cope: " Debra, we are all confused as to where the money is going. All we know is not much of it makes it to the budget the principal controls. Like $7500/$20000 in some cases. Why NPS schools are struggling is a longer story. Part money but part corruption and laws and rules that protect adults rights 1000 to 1 over children's learning. Like many others said tonight if we stopped fighting each other maybe we could share best practices."

Sydney Scott-Williams: "How is anything going to be solved with ignorance?"

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