QOD: Chris Cerf Dispels Five “Falsehoods” About Newark Public Schools

Today’s must-read: Chris Cerf, former N.J. Commissioner of Education, dispels “five falsehoods about Newark’s school system.” One of these five deconstructs the myth that Newark’s schools are worse off than before the 1995 state takeover. Cerf cites Bob Curvin’s great new book, “Inside Newark,” which describes the rampant system of corruption, patronage and academic failure that, says Cerf, was “so epidemic and so shameful that to not act would have been a moral crime of omission.”

Can anyone who has observed the conduct of the reform-resisters over the past two years seriously suggest that the children of Newark would have been better off in their hands? Bear in mind that the same elected officials calling for the end of state control formally passed a resolution calling for a “moratorium” on reform — this in a city where only about 40 percent of third graders are proficient in reading. 

In fact, for all the talk about the “democratic values” implicit in local control, the decibel level of the past few years has been caused less by a legitimate debate about the merits of the work than an internecine fight over which faction would control the local teachers union, a mayor’s race pitting “old” vs. “new” Newark (read: Sharpe revanchists vs. Cory defenders), and the aspirations of what Curvin calls the “resource distributors” — those who view the power and wealth allocation opportunities of the school system as an end in itself. 

If democracy were the real value at issue, how is it that the political elite, not to mention the union, are indifferent to the fact that well over 10,000 parents applied for a placement in a charter school, only be told that there is no space for their child? “Indifferent” actually understates the case: Many of these “leaders” wake up every day seeking, in large ways and small, to undermine the very educational opportunity parents so desperately seek. Where is the “democracy” in that?

What do you think?

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