Newark Mayor Joins Those Protesting Turnaround Schools

NJ Spotlight News | May 13, 2015 | Education
Ras Baraka offered support to those protesting the labeling of some city schools as turnaround schools.

A march on the Newark Board of Education. Teachers and community leaders protesting the practice of labeling some schools as turnaround schools. State appointed school Superintendent Cami Anderson says the designation means those schools get extra resources and support. Teachers say it means they’ll have to work longer hours and may well get fired. The protesters were joined by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, long at loggerheads with Anderson over her school reorganization plan. NJTV News Correspondent David Cruz spoke with him.

Cruz: It is clear that you have strong philosophical differences with the superintendent and you made it a point to say that it’s not personal but is there a role for a mayor to step back from his own personal philosophical difference and try and bring some sort of compromise?

Baraka: At this point there is no compromise. She’s not compromising. The things that the community wants, she won’t even come to a public meeting. So how can we have any compromise? She won’t come to a public meeting, she won’t have a discourse with the community at all. I represent the people of this neighborhood, these communities. I don’t represent her. I don’t represent other interests. I represent these people in the city. So she has to meet with my constituency. To disregard them is disregarding me. So we can’t compromise around those issues. I mean, the basic fundamental principle of the fact that she has to come out and make what she has wants known to the people to have a community discussion about it. If she can’t do that, then I don’t see what it is to compromise around.

Cruz: There is, in this school system, about a $1 billion budget. Does a lot of this have to do with who controls that budget as well?

Baraka: I mean it’s always at the bottom of it is always about resources. Whether who has the resources and where they’re going and for what purpose. Some people think the resources should be used to make teachers leave early. Some people think the resources should be used to extend the school day. There’s many fights about how these resources should be used and where they should go. The charters argue, and they argue correctly, that more money goes to the school than goes to the central office. We need that same kind of concept in the public school arena, the traditional public school arena, with more money going to the school to support students’ education directly in the classroom and directly in the schools more than the things that they’re using it for in the political realm.

Cruz: Has the state, which has controlled this system for two decades now, have they played a constructive role do you think in trying to bring some resolution to this?

Baraka: I think they’ve played no role. So I wouldn’t say that they’re playing a constructive or disruptive role. They just have not been present. And that’s problematic since they are present. So they’ve been present here for 20 years but they have not taken responsibility for what’s going on in the city of Newark nor have they taken responsibility for the superintendent and her actions at all.

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