There are some great folks writing about the latest in Camden’s education scene. I’m glad to share the thoughts from those watchdogs, and even more pleased that we have talented folks turning their eye here:
From Save Our Schools NJ:
In May, Save Our Schools NJ sent several letters to Education Commissioner Hespe, highlighting how the Mastery and Uncommon charter chains and the Camden state-appointed Superintendent were breaking the law in their efforts to ram through the opening of two new renaissance charter chains next fall.
Those letters are available here: https://www.saveourschoolsnj.org/2014/05/21/request-to-education-commissioner-to-reject-renaissance-school-applications-in-camden/
At 11 pm last Tuesday night, legislation was introduced and voted on in the NJ Senate and Assembly Budget Committees without the legislators being able to see the bills or having a real understanding of what they were approving. The legislation then was quickly pushed through the full Senate and Assembly.
This legislation retroactively changed the Urban Hope law so that the actions of Mastery and Uncommon were no longer illegal (https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/S2500/2264_R1.HTM).
So, rather than stopping their illegal activities when they were exposed, the predatory Mastery and Uncommon charter chains turned to their friends in the Norcross organization to “fix things.”
Ani McHugh, over at TeacherBiz, adds some sharp commentary as well:
(Hey, look: another classic example of legislators making laws–and then completely disregarding or changing those laws for political purposes. Chapter 78, which Christie signed in 2011 and requires state pension contributions? Who cares. Urban Hope laws, which set forth specific guidelines for charter establishment? Meh.)
So what will be the result of the Mastery and Uncommon invasion in Camden? SOSNJ notes that the city currently serves 11,000 students in traditional public schools, and 3,000 in district schools–but by 2019, 9,000 Camden children will be enrolled in charters. (And all this amid a “budget crisis” officials blame for mass teacher layoffs. That’s a completely separate issue; see here and here.)
Yeah…about those charters: now’s a good time to repost, again, some information on Uncommon (see here and here) and Mastery. A few very troubling things they have in common: histories of segregated populations, attrition, and ridiculous discipline policies–all of which set them apart from traditional public schools.
It appears leadership here has learned the wrong lesson from Newark’s mistakes. Fearing the cry of residents over school closings, the district will continue to open new schools and shift resources away from traditional schools. School closing will be “inevitable” when they occur. This may avoid (or, more likely, delay) public outcry, but it misses the bigger point. Community members want support for their traditional public schools. We need leadership that understands that and acts on it.