JAMES: Where’s My Refund? Newarkers Are Paying the Same Taxes, but Our Kids Are Receiving Less Learning

(This post first appeared in Newark Neighborhood View.)

As you know from my previous blog posts, my daughter attends West Side High School. Over the last few weeks I have shared some concerns about remote learning that just about every Newark parent currently feels.
 
Parents are concerned that many of us now have to pay for the added cost of technology for public school learning.  We are concerned with the lack of in-person adult supervision during classroom time.  We are concerned with the questionable attendance data the district has provided to the state.
 
Today, I have a new concern for you—and, like the others, it is something that has started to keep me up at night.  
 
Between my daughter’s shorter remote learning schedule, technical difficulties, last minute class cancelations, etc —by my count, her hours of actual academic instruction is about half of what it was before COVID.   That is a lot of learning loss, right?
 
So over Thanksgiving break I started thinking: When will my kid and other Newark kids be provided all the learning time they have lost?  And what can we do about it?
 
Newarkers are paying the same taxes for public schools that we did before COVID, only our kids are now receiving less learning.  So where do I go to get my rebate? 
 
Who do I send the bill to? Superintendent Roger León? Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon or his Boss Randi Weingarten who have been pushing for this?
 
I found this article about Los Angeles Public Schools and it rings true here in Newark.

The article starts off like this: “The Los Angeles Unified School District’s distance learning plan has caused ‘enormous learning losses’ and left tens of thousands of Black and Latino students without a basic education, according to allegations in a class action lawsuit filed against the district Thursday.”
 
You should read the article.  Perhaps Newark parents should follow LA’s lead and file lawsuits to get their refund! Not money, but learning time.
 
As Newarkers, we have seen inequity in our city’s public education system for generations and our fight for fairness, opportunity, and a strong education for our kids has continued for decades.
 
We have seen a state unwilling to fully fund our city; school buildings turning to ruin; waste fraud and abuse from our centralized district office; and, until recently, a state unwilling even to allow Newark’s own people to run our own schools!
 
Learning loss has been a constant for all of us in Newark.  Funding does not get to our classrooms or our kids— and in many ways many of us those of us born and bred have become a product of learning loss.
 
And now, over 250,000 Americans have died because of this global pandemic. We have a current President obsessed with throwing away African-American voting ballots, along with their health care, rather than helping our families during this health crisis. And with COVID rates dramatically expanding in recent days, we have heard the calls of our Mayor, and we know our city is in a terrible crisis.
 
It is a chaotic time and a scary time. I do not deny that.   But when it comes to education, this is simply more of the same.
 
So where do we go for our refund?
 
As children of Newark—and now as parents of Newark—the challenges that Newarkers face is not unchartered. We have seen crisis and inequality for generations. We have not backed down or remained silent during some of the most challenging moments in our city’s history. In fact, it has been just the opposite. These times, these moments in our history, require us to ask questions and to fight.
 
Now to be clear, I am not advocating that we open up classrooms right now. While there is a very fair argument to do so, I am not a health care expert.
 
However, Newark, it’s time to ask:
 
Who is making these decisions for our children?  Is it the Superintendent? Is it the Mayor? Is it the Governor?  Do these people even have their children enrolled in the Newark public education system?
 
It is a lot easier to close our public schools if you do not have a child in the Newark Schools. These deciders are not affected by the decision and do not understand our struggle right now.
 
Months from now, are our leaders going to call this moment a “lost weekend,” or is there a plan to actually invest in our community and our kids and provide what has been lost?
 
I tell you what, my daughter deserves her full 100 percent—and so do all Newark kids.
 
Think about it. We know this. So many of our Newark kids have special needs. Many need more resources. Every hour, every day, every week, every month of lost time affects our kids’ future.
 
Our kids are losing instruction, and with it, their equity and opportunity.
 
Newark, since no one else is addressing it, it looks like we need to we have to fight for our fair share. So it is time for Newark to stand up, just as we have done in the past, and ask the sensible question to our Newark leaders: When will my kid and other Newark kids get paid back for all the learning time they’ve never received?
 
It’s up to us, Newark.
What do you think?