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

Sunday, January 11, 2015

NJ Charter Schools Association Attacks 1st Amendment Rights in the Garden State

When the facts aren't on your side...
When you're up against the wall...
When you've been caught with your hand in the cookie jar...

You take the cheap shot. 

That's what the New Jersey Charter Schools Association did last week when they filed ethics charges against Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin who, along with doctoral student Mark Weber (aka. Jersey Jazzman) published this study on the segregationist practices of the state's charter schools which concludes what we already knew (from JJ's post):

New Jersey's charter schools do not serve nearly as many children in economic disadvantage, who have special education needs, or who are English language learners as their host districts' schools. 

Here's the crux of the NJCSA's complaint:
As an association of educators [more on this below], the NJCSA embraces the right of all educators to speak on matters of public debate. But the NJCSA and its members will not stand by as Dr. Sass Rubin devalues the reputation of our State University, a reputation that has been earned over years of excellence in research and academic achievement, to endorse her personal opinions and advance her personal advocacy interests. Because Dr. Sass Rubin has promised two further ‘studies,’ the NJCSA has filed this complaint today to ensure appropriate corrective action is taken before Dr. Sass Rubin releases her personal views as Rutgers research and creates further embarrassment for Rutgers University. (emphasis mine)
Does anyone besides me find it interesting that this press release is not on the NJCSA's website? I mean c'mon, this is big 'reformy' news! Sadly, I found it on the uber-'reformy' and always entertaining (for its sheer lack of veracity) NJ Left Behind blog

Why? Maybe because the NJCSA knows it got caught red handed. Maybe because they know these are not Julia and JJ's personal opinions. The data they presented is right out there for the whole world to see on the NJ DOE website—data that the charter schools themselves reported. There was nothing to OPRA. Any 5th grader who knows how to do a simple web search can easily find it. 


They're backed into a corner and have nothing left to do but pull a trick out of the bag of their biggest cheerleader: Gov Christie. They launched a personal attack. They skirted the real issues and went for the low-blow. Educator/blogger Peter Greene reports
The NJCSA is behaving like a punk, and like a weak punk at that who lacks the tools or the skills to come at Rubin and Weber directly. And they have more work to do, because as Weber points out on his own blog, the conclusions have already been acknowledged as the truth by ['reformy' Newark Superintendent] Cami Anderson and ['reformy' Camden Superintendent] Paymon Rouhanifard, so NJCSA better start ginning up a full scale job-threatening division for the entire state.
Retired Star Ledger reporter turned investigative blogger extraordinaire, Bob Braun reports on his Facebook page:

(My note: In the press release NJCSA calls itself an "association of educators". In addition to what Bob Braun lists below, I added what is also known about the board members, charter schools and other organizations with which they are associated, including links to other posts and information, and indicated in green or red whether or not they are actual educators. In some instances I was not able to find conclusive evidence whether or not the individual has a degree in education. If anyone does find evidence, please let me know. I do want to be accurate. There is a big difference between someone who works in education vs someone who is actually trained as an educator and has K-12 teaching experience.)

Back to Braun's post:
HERE ARE THE BOARD MEMBERS OF THE NEW JERSEY CHARTER SCHOOL ASSOCIATION. CONTACT THEM AND DEMAND THEY WITHDRAW STATE ETHICS CHARGES AGAINST JULIA SASS RUBIN. I think it's a hoot that Dawood Farahi, the president of Kean, and Ryan Hill, executive director of TEAM Academy, are on the board. Farahi and his odd resume and his $210,000 executive piece of office furniture--and Ryan Hill and his involvement in "Pink Hula Hoop." They have the nerve to file ethics charges against anyone? And, hey, look–a Rutgers administrator is on the board–does she issue a disclaimer every time she speaks? Does her presence on the board mean Rutgers is in favor of charter schools, and defends their abuses in Newark, Jersey City, Camden and other cities? This is just the beginning, guys. The Ledger and philly.com will tire of using your press releases but you started something. (emphasis mine)
Mr. Carlos Perez, (former) NJCSA President and CEO No 
Mr. Rick Pressler, Interim President and CEO No
Mr. Carlos Lejnieks, Board Chair, CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties. Jersey Jazzman wrote about the dubious connection between the Hoboken (Hudson Co.) Boys and Girls Club and HoLa Charter School. No
Mr. Ryan Hill, Secretary, Founder and CEO, TEAM Charter Schools, a KIPP region Yes—less than 5 years actual teaching experience, including 2 with TFA.
Mr. Timothy White, Chair, Advocacy Committee, Vice President, Public Affairs, Beckerman Public Relations No
Ms. Meredith Pennotti, Chair, Members Council, School Leader and Principal, Red Bank Charter School, one of the most segregated in the state. Unable to determine her college degree(s). The fact that she is a principal sways me to say Yes.
Ms. Mashea M. Ashton, CEO, Newark Charter School Fund Yes
Mr. Ronald Brady, Regional Director, Democracy Prep Charter Schools No
Ms. Sharon Brennan, Program Analyst, Robert Treat Academy Charter School, one of the most segregated charters in NewarkI'm saying No. I was only able to find the college she attended, not her college degree(s). She does not list teaching in her Linkedin profile. She was endorsed for teacher training by 1 person.
Dr. Dawood Farahi, President, Kean University Yes
Ms. Wanda Garcia, Associate Director, Rutgers-Camden Community Leadership Center which is run by Gloria Bonilla-Santiago who also runs LEAP Charter School about which Jersey Jazzman has written extensivelyNo. She is listed as having an MSW. Although she works at Rutgers, I cannot find any information that lists her as an instructor. 
Mr. Paul P. Josephson, Partner, Duane Morris, LLP, Board Chair Princeton Charter School, one of the most segregated charter schools in the stateNo
Ms. Shelley Skinner, Executive Director, Better Education Institute, Inc. aka. B4K of Derrell Bradford, David Tepper and Alan Fournier fame. No 

The following is a list of NJCSA staff and their 'education credentials':  
Marcy Bostwick, Manager New School Development No 
Jennifer M. Bredehoft, Director of Growth and Development No 
Brian Diamante, School Quality Analyst No 
Donna Siminski, Director of Policy and Advocacy No 
Amanda Vega, Manager of Communications and Marketing No 
Carrie Wetherby, Manager of Membership and Events No

There you have it, folks. Out of 19 people who run this organization, a grand total of four are actually trained educators. However, if you're talking 'reformy' educators, well now, that's a completely different story. In 'reform land' pesky little details like that don't matter. But money... biiiiig, juuuuuuicy, corporate and philanthropic money? That means a lot! And NJCSA has a lot to lose if too many state legislators, and concerned parents and citizens start making a big to-do about Rubin and Weber's research. We're talking at least $2.16 million. That's how much The Walton Family Foundation has given NJCSA from 2009-2013So they are scrambling to spin the blame away from them and onto Julia .

It's perfectly okay for them to spew half-truths and outright misinformation on charter school successes. It's perfectly okay for them to do nothing about the segregation taking place in their schools. But boy-oh-boy, don't you dare call them out on it or they will do everything in their power to take away your right to free speech! They will attack you personally, and completely avoid the facts as presented. Check out Julia's defense on Twitter:

These are thug tactics, but I know Julia and Mark are not intimidated in the least. We all need to be very concerned about the outcome of this intimidation. Suppression of free speech and the elimination of public education are the beginning of the end of democracy.


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