"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Jersey's Fat-Headed Governor Determined to Smash Teachers at Any Cost

After years and years of litigation, the Abbott Decision in New Jersey to establish equity in funding New Jersey schools is finally starting to have some discernible effect in narrowing the achievement canyon and the education debt to the poor. 

Just in time for a morbidly-obese loudmouth bully governor to bust in to tear down one of the nation' best public school systems, albeit still largely segregated, as recent NAEP science scores verify.  New Jersey was one of only two states scoring above the national average in all socioeconomic and ethnic categories at the 4th grade level.

Now LardArse Christie is snapping and screeching his way toward a showdown with the New Jersey citizenry on his plans to wage a two-front war on the schools, using both vouchers and charters.

Will the people of New Jersey allow this pompous ideologue to destroy their schools just to get revenge against the teachers' union for not supporting him?

From Bob Braun at the Star-Ledger:
TRENTON — It is happening again. Once more, promises — promises backed by law — made to New Jersey’s neediest children have been broken.

This time, it’s school choice — from charters to vouchers. Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to use it to rescue 100,000 "trapped" students in "failing schools.’’

Then he issued a report he said proved charter schools were the answer — but all it did prove was that the charter schools best able to exclude the neediest students got both the highest test scores and, as a consequence, the highest praise from a grateful governor.

Breaking promises predates Christie. And predates charters. Politicians of both parties—abetted by faint-hearted courts—have ensured that promises made remain unkept.

In 1954, the United State Supreme Court ruled separate but equal schools were "inherently unequal" — and inherently inferior. New Jersey long before banned statutory segregation, but both federal and state courts here also banned segregation based on housing patterns.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the education commissioner had the power to dissolve district lines to enforce integration. In 1971, when Morris Township officials tried to withdraw their children from Morristown, the court ordered the state to create a unified—and racially integrated—district. Promise made.

The commissioner then—Carl Marburger—insisted that, if integration were to be accomplished, school district lines "would have to be challenged.’’ Plainfield school officials, chafing at an integration order they said was impossible to enforce within the district, sued, demanding regionalization of schools in Union and Middlesex counties to achieve racial balance. School board meetings throughout Central Jersey were packed with panicky parents fearful their children would be bused far from home.
But nothing happened. In cases involving Plainfield, New Brunswick and Englewood, both the state and the courts backed off. School desegregation, and whatever it might have done for school achievement among our poorest children, faded as a solution—and as a reality.

Public schools are more segregated than ever. In Essex County, East Orange schools are 99.8 black and Hispanic. Irvington, 98 percent. Newark, 92 percent. Millburn schools—a short bus ride from these cities—are 98 percent white. New Jersey tolerates racial isolation.

That’s why regionalization will never come, why, unlike Maryland, New Jersey will never have county school systems, no matter how much money would be saved.

Just as the state was backing away from integration, a lawyer named Harold Ruvoldt, Jr. filed the first Robinson v. Cahill case. In 1972, Superior Court Judge Theodore Botter struck down the school aid law both because it denied urban children a "thorough and efficient" education and because it denied them the equal protection of the law.

Forty years and scores of rulings later, the issue is unresolved. Aid formulas held to be constitutional,including the last one, rarely are fully funded. Last year, Christie cut $1 billion from the public schools and has asked to Supreme Court to ratify his decision.

Then the state vowed it would take over failing schools and put the full resources of the state behind urban systems, make them laboratories for innovation, transparency, and accountability. It seized three—Jersey City, Newark and Paterson—then lost either its interest or its nerve.

So, first, ending racial isolation in schools was an unkept promise. A price the state wouldn’t pay. Aid reform designed to ensure achievement despite segregation became another price the state refuses to pay, another unkept promise. Takeovers—a third.

School choice—that’s the latest ticket to "equal educational opportunity," according to the governor. Finally, a solution that won’t require children to be with other children who don’t look like them. A solution that won’t require a lot more money or state effort.

But it’s not helping, either. It’s just further isolating the neediest children. Charters enroll far fewer very poor children with educational problems than do the traditional schools.And, while a few charters might be helping a small number of inner-city children, their test scores, like those of traditional schools, still lag behind the rest of the state.

So, now, the latest promise has proven to be, like all the others, unkept.

At a legislative hearing on charters the other day, one legislator expressed concern that the poorest children are left out because there’s no one to press their case with the schools.

"These children need advocates to get them through the process,’’ said Assemblyman Joseph Malone III (R-Mercer).
They always have needed advocates.

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