Bonuses for budget cuts

Rob Duffey is Policy and Communications Coordinator of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance

Embattled Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson has had a hard year. Handpicked by the Christie Administration to preside over their corporate education reform agenda in Newark, Anderson has earned the ire of Newark students, teachers, and taxpayers. The Newark Board of Education gave her a vote of no confidence. The Newark City Council and the Essex Board of Freeholders passed resolutions calling for a moratorium on any further ‘reforms.’

But it’s not all bad. Because this year she’s up for a $50,000 bonus – even while she cut funding for Newark schools by over $56 million.

That’s right. This spring Christie-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson pushed through a school budget that cut $56 million from Newark schools, slashing some school budgets by as much as 15%. It led nearly 1,000 Newark students to walk out of class and march on a meeting of the New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee at Rutgers Newark to demand the funds their schools are entitled to under state law.

No such luck. While legislators have rejected Christie’s attempts to permanently change the formula that determines how school districts are funded, they’ve consistently stopped short of making the Christie Administration actually follow it. No additional funds were offered Newark, and Anderson’s cuts will go into effect.

But like the CEO of a bailed out bank, Anderson is still up for a bonus that could allow Newark to rehire one of the hundreds of teachers it’s laid off since 2010. The bonus itself is tied to performance, and to hear Christie and Cerf tell it she’s done a fantastic job! There’s just one problem with their assessment. When Newark residents demanded local control on the basis of improved student test scores, Cerf went out of his way to argue that Newark schools are nowhere where they need to be. Apparently Newark schools are doing so poorly that the state can’t imagine returning control to the community — but somehow well enough to justify a ridiculous bonus for Anderson.

Maybe Christie’s corporate education reform agenda is just too big to fail.

Newark residents get it. They know that the metrics Anderson is being judged upon have nothing to do with actually giving Newark students the support they need. Christie, Cerf, and Anderson aren’t working to improve public education: they’re trying to hollow Newark schools from the inside out and replace them with charters, voucher-funded private schools and an education reform agenda that will be great for some people’s pocketbooks but totally inadequate to meet the needs of students. And by that measure she’s done exactly what she needs to.

If you’ve had enough of this corporate reform cronyism, say so. And link up with some of the great groups working to take Newark back.

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