The Newark School Reform Wars

The city has a new mayor with a progressive mandate, but its schools are reeling from the market-based reforms Cory Booker introduced.

By Owen Davis

Every time Newark shows up on the national radar—from Cory Booker’s celebrity turn to Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Ras Baraka’s victory in the mayoral race earlier this month—its schools have been in the spotlight. In Mayor-elect Baraka, the school reform project inaugurated under Booker and Governor Chris Christie has met its most formidable opponent yet. But despite Baraka’s win, not to mention a flurry of sit-ins, walk-outs, protests and pickets, the transformation of the school system into a showcase of neoliberal ideas about education is unlikely to stop anytime soon.

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In fact, not a cent of Zuckerberg’s money has gone toward hiring counselors, social workers or nurses. Meanwhile, “there have been DRAMATIC cuts to wraparound services,” wrote Mike Maillaro, Newark Teachers Union’s director of communication and research, in an email. Last year, every attendance counselor in the district was eliminated.

Hawthorne Avenue reports losing eight support staff since 2011, including a guidance counselor and two instructional coaches. The school has neither a music teacher nor a librarian.

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The proliferation of union-free charters worries district teachers. “One Newark is essentially the beginning of the dismantlement of public education in Newark,” says Newark Teachers Union president Joe Del Grosso, who calls Anderson “a drum major for charter schools.” The district points out that “all charter growth is determined by the state.”

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