No Choice

If choice is the only choice is it still choice?

C-300Today we turn to one of the most baffling conundrums of these fiercely urgent days. If school choice is indeed the civil rights issue of our time, why do its chosen beneficiaries so rarely get to exercise any choice about choosing it? Alas reader, we are left with no choice. To the choice mobile, and make it snappy! We’re headed to Camden, New Jersey, where school choice is on its way, whether people there choose to choose it or not. Continue reading →

Other People’s Cities

In Camden, education reform and gentrification go hand in hand

CAMDEN1bBy Keith Benson
In case you missed it, Camden, NJ will soon be home to a brand new practice facility (*we’re talkin’ about practice!*) for the Philadelphia 76ers that will cost taxpayers $82 million. What does Camden get in exchange for this princely sum? Fifty seasonal—read low-paying—sales and marketing jobs. This news comes on the heels of the layoffs of hundreds of teachers and staff from the Camden Public Schools. If you’re wondering about the priorities of a city that can’t afford to pay its teachers but can somehow spring for the *biggest and best* practice facility in the US, you’re not the only one; I’m feeling confused and angry about the direction of my city these days.
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Yesterday’s News

What do you call it when the arrival of charter chains forces the closure of other charters? Choice.

out of businessBy Sue Altman
Be warned, starters of small charters! You may have enjoyed a red-carpet spotlight in the past, but don’t expect much loyalty from reformy fashionistas these days. It’s a school-eat-school world out there, and on the path to global competitiveness and *bigger rigor,* there is no room for last season’s trends. Such is the hard lesson learned recently by City Invincible Charter of Camden, New Jersey, which is being forcibly closed by the state in order to make way for the bigger, more disruptive charter chains. Continue reading →

Greetings from Scamden, NJ

In Camden, NJ an effort to privatize the local schools finds little resistance among local elites

Camden, NJ teacher Keith Benson.

By Keith Benson
A recent *community meeting* at Camden’s Catto Elementary School exemplified the vast chasm that divides my city these days, between well-connected elites and the marginalized residents they profess to serve. The state-appointed superintendent of the Camden schools was expected to unveil the specifics of a plan concerning the district’s future. Skeptical local residents filled the bleachers, while Camden’s elites sat at tables applauding a *plan* that was as deliberately vague as it was short on specifics, including the names of the public schools that are slated to be taken over by charter operators. Refusing to name the schools prevents vigorous activism against closure. Instead, the crowd was urged to rally behind a pro-charter policy, *for the kids.* Continue reading →

Internal Documents Reveal Charter Expansion, TFA Go Hand in Hand

Broad Foundation emails indicate charter operators reluctant to expand without TFA presence

By Chad Sommer and Jennifer Berkshire
Last weekend, former Newark Star columnist Bob Braun published a bombshell column, arguing that the state-appointed superintendent of Newark, NJ schools, Teach For America (TFA) alum Cami Anderson, wants to waive seniority rules to fire upwards of 700 tenured Newark teachers and replace a percentage of them with TFA recruits. Executive Director of Teach For America New Jersey, Fatimah Burnam Watkins, quickly dismissed Braun’s assertions as *conspiracy theories,* while claiming TFA has a small footprint in Newark.  But the heated back-and-forth misses the larger issue: TFA plays an increasingly essential role in staffing the charters that are rapidly expanding, replacing public schools from Newark to Philadelphia to Chicago to Los Angeles. In fact, newly released documents indicate that many charter operators won’t even consider opening new schools without TFA to provide a supply of *teacher talent.*

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