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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

NJ Protestors Occupy State DOE Over Charters

Protestors occupied the New Jersey Department of Education Friday over the creeping charter school movement taking over the leafy suburban enclaves where most parents are happy with their children's public schools. These parents are fearful precious dollars will be siphoned from their quality public schools to a more privatized, market-based agenda under the guise of "school choice."

In fact, recently 3 out of 4 charter applications for NJ were rejected by the NJ DoE and it looks like Christie and Cerf finally have the pushback from the citizenry necessary to save one of the best public education systems in the country. It's not just the teachers and their unions under attack by the Christie administration, but now the attack on public education has moved from the poor, black and brown and Latino neighborhoods where failing schools were the target of corporate and or state takover to middle class suburban districts. Just like it took the total oppression and devastation of the middle class to get people to wake up and smell the coffee, so too with public education. Not in my backyard.

Here's some local coverage on the protest in NJ Friday. The Occupy DOE's story hasn't caught the attention of the corporate media yet, but something tells me it will.

Protesters occupy Education Dept. lobby, demand charter school reform


TRENTON — Protesters angry about the Christie administration's charter school initiatives briefly occupied the lobby of the state Department of Education this morning, chanting, "charter reform now!"

The group of about 50 people from Highland Park, Edison, New Brunswick, Teaneck, Montclair, Cherry Hill, Voorhees and South Orange said the state was dividing their communities by considering putting charter schools there.

"Why, when we have a high-performing district, would they approve a charter school?" said Rita McClellan of Cherry Hill.

A State Police trooper responded to the protest and asked the residents to leave the department's lobby after they were told that no one from Acting Commissioner Christopher Cerf's office was available to speak with them.

The protesters delivered several boxes of petitions against applications for charter schools in their communities before peacefully going back outside. They said the state was refusing to listen to their concerns.

"They chose not to meet with us, so we decided to come to them," said Darcie Cimarusti of Highland Park. "I don't understand why they won't listen to us."

The department said in a statement that they "take seriously all public comment that we receive in the review process."

"We welcome an open, honest, and productive dialogue about proposed charter applications," the statement said. "We encourage community members across the state to take an active role in public education in their communities."

In recent years, the charter school movement has taken off with little resistance from urban communities where the public schools are failing.

But as attempts are made to establish charter schools in the suburbs, a rising tide of opposition and resentment has emerged. Charter schools are independently run but receive public funds, taking money away from public schools.

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