There has been a flurry of activity this weekend at the state level regarding Camden education. For those who struggle to follow that scene (and transparency is one of the contentious issues), the Urban Hope Act (2012) originally allowed for “renaissance schools” in New Jersey, a model pushed by South Jersey legislators and, to this point, only being used in Camden. Changes to that model were rushed through the legislature last term to allow renaissance schools to use temporary facilities (something already being done in Camden, and over which there is a pending lawsuit), but it was conditionally vetoed by the Governor due to a clause that expanded benefits for recently fired teachers. Now, the issue is up again for discussion, and education activists are getting the word out about a Monday vote.

Here’s a sampling of what people are saying. This is primarily a Camden issue, so, as always, I’d love to see more Camden voices here. That is particularly the case at Blue Jersey, a statewide progressive site, that many legislatures use to keep a pulse on the progressive movement. Please, make your way there to join the discussion. 

Save Our Schools NJ lays out the details: 

Senate President Stephen Sweeney is poised to pass S2264, legislation that amends the 2013 Urban Hope Act in order to accommodate illegally approved renaissance charter schools in Camden. Senator Sweeney is bringing this legislation to a full Senate vote on Monday, September 22, without first introducing it in committee. This legislation was already snuck through the Legislature once in late June.

Ani at Teacher Biz calls the lack of transparency “bizarro New Jersey,” and points out the differences in democratic process between it and “regular New Jersey.”

Jersey Jazzman went ahead and started a rip-roaring debate at Blue Jersey, including a back and forth on Norcross that you rarely see written down in Camden:

JKWilson: Sweeney’s behavior can be explained simply by looking at the name of one of the Renaissance schools: The KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy. His loyalty is to George Norcross — an unelected power broker — not to the people of NJ or the children of Camden, and no amount of lobbying will overcome that fact. That’s NOT democracy.

Firstamend07: Norcross has done more for Camden than any other person around.

Outside of a couple of pastors and priests ,who are just saints on earth,no one cares more about Camden than George Norcross.  

I’d love to see more Camden voices in this discussion, so head on over to Blue Jersey to participate. As always, this is a good time to reach out to your representatives, with a vote coming on Monday. I’ll leave you with this reminder that when Camden doesn’t speak for itself, others will speak for Camden: 

Firstamend07: Don’t blame Sweeney because you cannot get enough support for your cause to lobby against this bill.

Did you ever think that maybe you are on the wrong side of this argument? It does not appear that many people are against this bill,even in Camden.

But even if there is a lot of opposition it does no one any good to keep whining. You have 24 more hours before the vote. GO LOBBY!


UPDATE: Senator Weinberg went to Blue Jersey to clarify the vote tomorrow and its purpose:


“Whether you agree or disagree with this bill, it went through committee hearings and passed both houses of the legislature. Tomorrow’s vote is to concur (or not) with the Governor’s conditional veto. I think this article about the process we are dealing with tomorrow is very misleading. This bill has gone through the same process as any other we vote on, including committee hearings, and if the Gov. vetoes or CVs the bill, we deal with that  Not fair to accuse the Senate President of not being transparent on this one.”

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  • How about getting the Government out of the education business.. I mean how unsuccessful does something have to be before people wake up? Give tax breaks to homeschooling parents and see what happens. As far as the comment about Norcross doing more for Camden than anybody….that’s just laughable.. if there’s nothing in it for him and his cronies he won’t touch it… and if you think that’s not how it works shame on you…

  • This is how the bill was introduced and approved the first time:

    “At 11 p.m., on Tuesday, June 24th, legislation was discussed and voted on by the New Jersey Senate and Assembly Budget Committees, without all the legislators understanding what they were approving. “We didn’t have the bills in advance,” complained one of the Senators, “I didn’t know what the hell the bills were.” This legislation was then quickly pushed through the full New Jersey Senate and Assembly.”

    Hardly a shining example of participatory democracy.


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