An Open Letter to Star-Ledger Editorial Board Director Tom Moran

This was published simultaneously this morning, at Marie Corfield, teacher biz, Jersey Jazzman and here at Blue Jersey. Promoted by Rosi.

Dear Tom,

This week, you crossed a line.

Until now, your pieces in the Star-Ledger about Newark’s school system and the reorganization of the district have been ill-informed and reckless. You’ve ignored the warnings of teachers, parents, community leaders, researchers, and students, preferring instead to cling to recycled talking points crafted by those with scant little experience in education policy, but much to gain in profits.

You’ve paid a price: like your ridiculous attempt to walk back from your disastrous endorsement of Chris Christie, your continuing effort to support State Superintendent Cami Anderson while distancing yourself from the consequences of her catastrophic leadership has shredded any integrity you had left as a journalist. Any standing your newspaper had left as a champion of the people of Newark has also eroded: as with Anderson, no one in the city trusts you or the Star-Ledger’s editorial page anymore.

“Shame on you for refusing to educate yourself about the policies you endorse.”

But as awful as your previous meanderings about Newark’s schools have been, at least you never had the bad taste to try to pawn off Anderson’s failures and your own poor judgement to others. At least you never tried to make the case that the impending disaster of One Newark was the fault of anyone but the Christie administration, its appointed superintendent, and her enablers in government and the press.

This week, however, you crossed that line. We have tried individually in the past to get your attention and set the record straight to no avail (see all the links later in this piece). Therefore, we-professional educators with a combined total of seven degrees, a PhD in the works, and 38 years of teaching experience-who, along with countless others across this state, have stood against the illogical, faith-based, and racist education policies you espouse for Newark regularly from your position of influence, have come together to deliver you a message:

Shame on you, Tom Moran

Shame on you for sanctioning One Newark, a plan so controversial and discriminatory that it’s the subject of both state and federal civil rights complaints. Shame on you for ignoring and then blaming the people your newspaper is supposed to serve. Shame on you for refusing to educate yourself about the policies you endorse.

Why do you insist that educators must be held accountable for the sins of greed and the failure of government to address generational poverty, while no one holds you, the editorial director of the state’s largest newspaper, accountable for the half-truths and misinformation you spread?

Fact vs. Fiction

Fiction:

You claim: “At the same time, the city’s most successful charter school chains will take over management of three district schools, fueling their explosive growth.” As we have explained to you over and over again, the ‘success’ of these charters hinges on the fact that they do not serve the same population of students as their neighboring public schools.

Fact:

Percentage qualifying for Free Lunch

NPS: 80%

North Star (Uncommon): 68%

TEAM (KIPP): 73%

Robert Treat Academy: 60%

Fact:

Percentage Limited English Proficient

NPS: 9%

North Star (Uncommon): 0%

TEAM (KIPP): 0%

Robert Treat Academy: 1%

Fact:

Percentage Special Education

NPS: 17.7%

North Star (Uncommon): 7.8%

TEAM (KIPP): 12.3%

Robert Treat Academy: 5.8%

(All enrollment data 2014 from the NJDOE; special education classification data 2013 from NJDOE.)

Fact:

The small number of special education students within Newark’s charters overwhelmingly have low-cost special educational needs: milder learning and speech disabilities. And both TEAM and North Star have engaged in well-documented patterns of student cohort attrition: according to Julia Sass Rubin of SOSNJ, nearly 60 percent of the black males from North Star’s Class of 2014 dropped out between 5th and 12th Grade.

Fact:

Mark Weber and Dr. Bruce Baker have published several policy briefs explaining, in painstaking detail, why One Newark has little chance of succeeding:

  • There is no evidence Newark’s charters can succeed with equivalent populations of students to those of NPS.

  • The plan is racially biased, both against students and against their teachers.

  • The district has apparently committed several serious methodological errors in creating the plan; we say apparently because NPS has never released its methods, and the Star-Ledger has never demanded that they do.

  • The information the district released in the One Newark application about the quality of Newark’s schools is invalid.

    We would think this last issue would concern you, a journalist, the most. You claim that Newark’s parents are clamoring to get into charter schools. What if, however, those parents are making their choices based on false information from Anderson’s administration? What if the waiting lists you point to-lists, by the way, whose lengths are wildly exaggerated – are the product of both the state’s neglect of Newark’s public schools and oversold claims from NPS – and your editorial page – of charter schools’ successes?

    Separate and Unequal Education

    Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 12.15.32 AM

    The sad truth is that parents in your town of Montclair (or any other mostly white, mostly wealthy suburban community) would never willingly subject their own children to what’s happening in Newark right now:

  • Public schools being closed without community input

  • Children in the same family being sent to different schools in different parts of town on a transportation system that’s never been tested

  • Tax dollars going to a school system that is separate and unequal: that segregates the neediest students from those who are the easiest and least expensive to educate

  • The harsh, unforgiving “no excuses” disciplinary policies that are characteristic of so many charter schools

  • Mass layoffs of education professionals

  • A superintendent who has been a colossal failure at fiscal management

  • Schools in such disrepair that they are unsafe to occupy

  • A superintendent who refuses to listen, who refuses to attend board of ed meetings, and who is not supported by the community

    In fact, the parents of Montclair are fighting back right now, but you have not written one word about it. Why is it okay for them to fight back, but when the parents of Newark do so, you accuse them of “shrieking” and being “shrill and unreasonable”? Are the parents of Newark not smart enough to know what’s good for their own children? Don’t you think they can smell a rat as well as someone from the ‘burbs?

    Public education belongs to the public. The board of ed is answerable to all the people. But in Newark? Meh, what do those people know? They have no money, so they have no voice. They aren’t the right skin color, so they have no voice. They can’t write big campaign checks, so they have no voice. They aren’t concerned parents. They are, in your words:

    “CONSPIRACY THEORISTS”

    Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 12.17.39 AM
    Yea, these parents look really crazy.

    Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 12.18.12 AM
    … so do these students.

    Were these people “conspiracy theorists” too…?

    Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 12.19.00 AM

    Tin Foil Hats and Fox Mulder: The Truth is Out There

    The message Newark parents hear from you is that if they would just shut up, take off their tin foil hats and let all these rich, smart (that term is used very loosely) white folk completely up-end their lives, they’ll crawl back on their hands and knees someday in thanks and praise.

    But you’re wrong. Just because many are working class or poor, don’t speak the King’s English as well as you, refuse to stand on protocol at board of ed meetings because they’re sick and tired of the people in charge not listening when they use their ‘indoor voices’, are “voting with their feet” (as you so love to say of all those charter parents) by boycotting the first day of school, you accuse them of being crazy and-perhaps the cruelest cut of all-not giving a damn about their own children:

    “[Anderson] is facing determined opposition from local activists and politicians who don’t seem to give a damn about the children.



    “why not organize a protest march, or a sit-in, or even acts of civil disobedience? Why would your first big move be to keep kids out of classrooms when so many of them can’t read at grade level?”

    Tom, the activists are parents. Keeping children home from school is an act of civil disobedience. The parents of Newark are not “conspiracy theorists”; they are concerned citizens who want what’s best for their children-just like parents in your town-but they’ve been shut out of the conversation. And you owe them an apology.

    The fact is, Tom, the majority of opposition comes from parents and students who are supported by the clergy, unionized education professionals (whom you seem to hate for some reason even though NJ consistently ranks at the top in public education) and elected officials, some of whom also happen to live in the community. In case you hadn’t noticed, Mayor Ras Baraka ran and won on a platform to stop this madness. He was elected by a majority of the citizens of Newark, and he has dedicated his professional career-most recently as principal of Central High School-to the children and families of Newark.  But you, Tom, wonder “if the kids fit into the mayor’s political calculus at all?” Do you really believe that Ras Baraka is less committed to the children of his city than Cami Anderson, an outsider from California who lives in the suburbs?

    In your X-Files world, conspiracy theorists are people “who see charter schools as a dark plot by Wall Street to somehow suck money out of the public system.” Should we assume you aren’t aware of the ways Qualified School Construction Bonds enrich charters while neighborhood schools starve – and at the same time translate to big profits for banks? (Are you also unaware that David Samson, who just resigned from his Port Authority position because of that pesky Bridgegate mess, is a partner of the law firm that oversees bond transactions between charters and banks?) The fact that you flat-out refuse to accept the mountains of evidence (see , here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) linking Wall Street profits with the explosion of charter schools completely discredits you as a legitimate journalist.

    “The fact that you flat-out refuse to accept the mountains of evidence linking Wall Street profits with the explosion of charter schools completely discredits you as a legitimate journalist.”

    And as for children not being able to “read at grade level,” it’s important first to note that the link you reference details students’ scores on standardized tests, which are inherently flawed and economically-and racially-biased – and which are not indicators of students’ “grade level.” But if we are to keep with your language, there are a myriad of reasons children can’t read at grade level; many have little to do with what goes on inside a classroom. And setting up a system that closes schools, replaces veteran educators with inexperienced ones, and prevents hundreds of parents from enrolling their children does nothing to help those children.

    How many times do we have to say this?

    We’ve tried to reason with you and the rest of the Star-Ledger editorial board many times (here, here, here, here, here, and here), but your failure to acknowledge the evidence with which you’ve been presented makes your defense of Cami Anderson and her One Newark plan all the more troubling.  

    Unlike you, Tom, we believe that responsibility for the gross failures of One Newark rests solely on the shoulders of Cami Anderson and her supporters-

    not on the shoulders of the parents, educators, researchers, community members, and elected officials who recognize and denounce One Newark’s glaring flaws and Cami Anderson’s failed leadership.  

    Who will be sitting at this bus stop on the first day of school in Newark? It’s not hard to figure out, Tom. It won’t be kids from your town.

    Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 12.19.49 AM
    This photo is from apartheid-era South Africa

    Sincerely,

    Marie Corfield

    Ani McHugh (aka. teacher biz)

    Mark Weber (aka. Jersey Jazzman)

  • An Open Letter to Star-Ledger Editorial Board Director Tom Moran

    Dear Tom,

    This week, you crossed a line.

    Until now, your pieces in the Star-Ledger about Newark’s school system and the reorganization of the district have been ill-informed and reckless. You’ve ignored the warnings of teachers, parents, community leaders, researchers, and students, preferring instead to cling to recycled talking points crafted by those with scant little experience in education policy, but much to gain in profits.

    You’ve paid a price: like your ridiculous attempt to walk back from your disastrous endorsement of Chris Christie, your continuing effort to support State Superintendent Cami Anderson while distancing yourself from the consequences of her catastrophic leadership has shredded any integrity you had left as a journalist. Any standing your newspaper had left as a champion of the people of Newark has also eroded: as with Anderson, no one in the city trusts you or the Star-Ledger’s editorial page anymore.

    “Shame on you for refusing to educate yourself about the policies you endorse.”

    But as awful as your previous meanderings about Newark’s schools have been, at least you never had the bad taste to try to pawn off Anderson’s failures and your own poor judgement to others. At least you never tried to make the case that the impending disaster of One Newark was the fault of anyone but the Christie administration, its appointed superintendent, and her enablers in government and the press.

    This week, however, you crossed that line. We have tried individually in the past to get your attention and set the record straight to no avail (see all the links later in this piece). Therefore, we-professional educators with a combined total of seven degrees, a PhD in the works, and 38 years of teaching experience-who, along with countless others across this state, have stood against the illogical, faith-based, and racist education policies you espouse for Newark regularly from your position of influence, have come together to deliver you a message:

    Shame on you, Tom Moran

    Shame on you for sanctioning One Newark, a plan so controversial and discriminatory that it’s the subject of both state and federal civil rights complaints. Shame on you for ignoring and then blaming the people your newspaper is supposed to serve. Shame on you for refusing to educate yourself about the policies you endorse.

    Why do you insist that educators must be held accountable for the sins of greed and the failure of government to address generational poverty, while no one holds you, the editorial director of the state’s largest newspaper, accountable for the half-truths and misinformation you spread?

    Fact vs. Fiction

    Fiction:

    You claim: “At the same time, the city’s most successful charter school chains will take over management of three district schools, fueling their explosive growth.” As we have explained to you over and over again, the ‘success’ of these charters hinges on the fact that they do not serve the same population of students as their neighboring public schools.

    Fact:

    Percentage qualifying for Free Lunch

    NPS: 80%

    North Star (Uncommon): 68%

    TEAM (KIPP): 73%

    Robert Treat Academy: 60%

    Fact:

    Percentage Limited English Proficient

    NPS: 9%

    North Star (Uncommon): 0%

    TEAM (KIPP): 0%

    Robert Treat Academy: 1%

    Fact:

    Percentage Special Education

    NPS: 17.7%

    North Star (Uncommon): 7.8%

    TEAM (KIPP): 12.3%

    Robert Treat Academy: 5.8%

    (All enrollment data 2014 from the NJDOE; special education classification data 2013 from NJDOE.)

    Fact:

    The small number of special education students within Newark’s charters overwhelmingly have low-cost special educational needs: milder learning and speech disabilities. And both TEAM and North Star have engaged in well-documented patterns of student cohort attrition: according to Julia Sass Rubin of SOSNJ, nearly 60 percent of the black males from North Star’s Class of 2014 dropped out between 5th and 12th Grade.

    Fact:

    Mark Weber and Dr. Bruce Baker have published several policy briefs explaining, in painstaking detail, why One Newark has little chance of succeeding:

  • There is no evidence Newark’s charters can succeed with equivalent populations of students to those of NPS.

  • The plan is racially biased, both against students and against their teachers.

  • The district has apparently committed several serious methodological errors in creating the plan; we say apparently because NPS has never released its methods, and the Star-Ledger has never demanded that they do.

  • The information the district released in the One Newark application about the quality of Newark’s schools is invalid.

    We would think this last issue would concern you, a journalist, the most. You claim that Newark’s parents are clamoring to get into charter schools. What if, however, those parents are making their choices based on false information from Anderson’s administration? What if the waiting lists you point to-lists, by the way, whose lengths are wildly exaggerated – are the product of both the state’s neglect of Newark’s public schools and oversold claims from NPS – and your editorial page – of charter schools’ successes?

    Separate and Unequal Education

    Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 12.15.32 AM

    The sad truth is that parents in your town of Montclair (or any other mostly white, mostly wealthy suburban community) would never willingly subject their own children to what’s happening in Newark right now:

  • Public schools being closed without community input

  • Children in the same family being sent to different schools in different parts of town on a transportation system that’s never been tested

  • Tax dollars going to a school system that is separate and unequal: that segregates the neediest students from those who are the easiest and least expensive to educate

  • The harsh, unforgiving “no excuses” disciplinary policies that are characteristic of so many charter schools

  • Mass layoffs of education professionals

  • A superintendent who has been a colossal failure at fiscal management

  • Schools in such disrepair that they are unsafe to occupy

  • A superintendent who refuses to listen, who refuses to attend board of ed meetings, and who is not supported by the community

    In fact, the parents of Montclair are fighting back right now, but you have not written one word about it. Why is it okay for them to fight back, but when the parents of Newark do so, you accuse them of “shrieking” and being “shrill and unreasonable”? Are the parents of Newark not smart enough to know what’s good for their own children? Don’t you think they can smell a rat as well as someone from the ‘burbs?

    Public education belongs to the public. The board of ed is answerable to all the people. But in Newark? Meh, what do those people know? They have no money, so they have no voice. They aren’t the right skin color, so they have no voice. They can’t write big campaign checks, so they have no voice. They aren’t concerned parents. They are, in your words:

    “CONSPIRACY THEORISTS”

    Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 12.17.39 AM
    Yea, these parents look really crazy.

    Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 12.18.12 AM
    … so do these students.

    Were these people “conspiracy theorists” too…?

    Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 12.19.00 AM

    Tin Foil Hats and Fox Mulder: The Truth is Out There

    The message Newark parents hear from you is that if they would just shut up, take off their tin foil hats and let all these rich, smart (that term is used very loosely) white folk completely up-end their lives, they’ll crawl back on their hands and knees someday in thanks and praise.

    But you’re wrong. Just because many are working class or poor, don’t speak the King’s English as well as you, refuse to stand on protocol at board of ed meetings because they’re sick and tired of the people in charge not listening when they use their ‘indoor voices’, are “voting with their feet” (as you so love to say of all those charter parents) by boycotting the first day of school, you accuse them of being crazy and-perhaps the cruelest cut of all-not giving a damn about their own children:

    “[Anderson] is facing determined opposition from local activists and politicians who don’t seem to give a damn about the children.



    “why not organize a protest march, or a sit-in, or even acts of civil disobedience? Why would your first big move be to keep kids out of classrooms when so many of them can’t read at grade level?”

    Tom, the activists are parents. Keeping children home from school is an act of civil disobedience. The parents of Newark are not “conspiracy theorists”; they are concerned citizens who want what’s best for their children-just like parents in your town-but they’ve been shut out of the conversation. And you owe them an apology.

    The fact is, Tom, the majority of opposition comes from parents and students who are supported by the clergy, unionized education professionals (whom you seem to hate for some reason even though NJ consistently ranks at the top in public education) and elected officials, some of whom also happen to live in the community. In case you hadn’t noticed, Mayor Ras Baraka ran and won on a platform to stop this madness. He was elected by a majority of the citizens of Newark, and he has dedicated his professional career-most recently as principal of Central High School-to the children and families of Newark.  But you, Tom, wonder “if the kids fit into the mayor’s political calculus at all?” Do you really believe that Ras Baraka is less committed to the children of his city than Cami Anderson, an outsider from California who lives in the suburbs?

    In your X-Files world, conspiracy theorists are people “who see charter schools as a dark plot by Wall Street to somehow suck money out of the public system.” Should we assume you aren’t aware of the ways Qualified School Construction Bonds enrich charters while neighborhood schools starve – and at the same time translate to big profits for banks? (Are you also unaware that David Samson, who just resigned from his Port Authority position because of that pesky Bridgegate mess, is a partner of the law firm that oversees bond transactions between charters and banks?) The fact that you flat-out refuse to accept the mountains of evidence (see , here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) linking Wall Street profits with the explosion of charter schools completely discredits you as a legitimate journalist.

    “The fact that you flat-out refuse to accept the mountains of evidence linking Wall Street profits with the explosion of charter schools completely discredits you as a legitimate journalist.”

    And as for children not being able to “read at grade level,” it’s important first to note that the link you reference details students’ scores on standardized tests, which are inherently flawed and economically-and racially-biased – and which are not indicators of students’ “grade level.” But if we are to keep with your language, there are a myriad of reasons children can’t read at grade level; many have little to do with what goes on inside a classroom. And setting up a system that closes schools, replaces veteran educators with inexperienced ones, and prevents hundreds of parents from enrolling their children does nothing to help those children.

    How many times do we have to say this?

    We’ve tried to reason with you and the rest of the Star-Ledger editorial board many times (here, here, here, here, here, and here), but your failure to acknowledge the evidence with which you’ve been presented makes your defense of Cami Anderson and her One Newark plan all the more troubling.  

    Unlike you, Tom, we believe that responsibility for the gross failures of One Newark rests solely on the shoulders of Cami Anderson and her supporters-

    not on the shoulders of the parents, educators, researchers, community members, and elected officials who recognize and denounce One Newark’s glaring flaws and Cami Anderson’s failed leadership.  

    Who will be sitting at this bus stop on the first day of school in Newark? It’s not hard to figure out, Tom. It won’t be kids from your town.

    Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 12.19.49 AM
    This photo is from apartheid-era South Africa

    Sincerely,

    Marie Corfield

    Ani McHugh (aka. Teacherbiz)

    Mark Weber (aka. Jersey Jazzman)

    [Great pic at the end! Let’s do this, ladies!] Okey dokey!! I will look it over once more in the morning & wait for Ani’s additional info & let u all know when it’s ready to go. Thanks so much!!

    Woo hoo!!! You guys rock! Very proud to have worked with both of you on this piece–although my contributions were scraggly compared to yours. 🙂 –A

  • Comments (16)

    1. kfoster

      On the SL website, in the comments section,  Moran has asked for proof that Wall St is using charters to profit from and I have linked him to article after article of proof.  He absolutely refuses to acknowledge that a bunch of rich white men don’t just “care” about poor black youth for the money they can make them.

      Remember what happened when Wall St. wanted to make purchasing homes easy for everyone because they “cared”?

      Reply
    2. Rosi Efthim

      Dr. Diane Ravitch reposted this diary, too, helping us crowdsource the message to Tom Moran with her national readership. Here’s what she said:

      “Three New Jersey bloggers-Jersey Jazzman, Marie Corfield, and Ani McHugh-here jointly respond to Tom Moran, chief editorial writer for the Star-Ledger and chief cheerleader for Newark’s state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson. Their open letter was jointly posted on their blogs at 7 a.m. This morning. Although Moran has ignored them and any other critics of the Christie-Anderson plan to eliminate public schools in Newark, they are hoping that their collaboration might get his attention.”

      Not familiar with Ravitch? She is an education policy analyst, professor, historian of education, and served as Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush. Her blog gets tens of thousands of page views per day.

      Reply
    3. Marie Corfield

      She was also one of the architects of No Child Left Behind, but once it was implemented, realized it was deeply flawed with impossible-to-achieve benchmarks. She has since dedicated her entire career to reversing the effects of NCLB and it’s exponentially horrendous progeny, Race To The Top (RTTT)  

      Reply
    4. princetonblue

      that one could discuss.  But let me just point out that the claim

      “The harsh, unforgiving “no excuses” disciplinary policies that are characteristic of so many charter schools ”

      is equally true of many traditional public schools.  

      Reply
    5. Steven Goldstein

      As a former journalist, I am going to do something unusual and bury the lead here by making three points first.

      1.  I love the posts of Jersey Jazzman, even when I don’t agree with them.  90 percent of the time I do agree, 10 percent of the time I don’t, but 100 percent of the time I think they’re smart, provocative and make me think – and often persuade me.  Thank you.

      2.  I love Marie Corfield.  Public servants don’t come more thoughtful, passionate or committed than Marie.  Whatever Marie runs for again, I will support.

      3.  I know Tom Moran and I like him TONS, even though I have disagreed with him.  Let me state this bias clearly.

      He was a hero on marriage equality, but lest you think I don’t care about other issues, I do.  I disagree with his views on a number of education issues.  I am more progressive than he is on unions.  I have disagreed with him on his initial worldview of Chris Christie, on which he has changed.  And I have also disagreed with him on even a couple of LGBT issues – including his initial opposition to our law banning reparative therapy.

      But rather than bash him, I have engaged him and found him able to listen, to care and to evolve as much as almost any other editorial board writers or columnists I know.  

      But when I see Tom Moran’s name mentioned here on the great Blue Jersey, instantly I know it’s going to become a personal piñata-fest bashing Tom Moran.  Too often, in my eyes, it feels as if it’s less about the issues, though I see the issues discussed, than a dominating sentiment that makes it one long negative commercial targeting Tom Moran.

      Might those here who disagree with Tom – and as I said, that has sometimes included me – dial it down a notch?

      It’s not a matter of just civility.  It’s not a matter of, oh, he’s a grown-up, he can take it.   I think you’re turning away people who agree with, or who would otherwise want to read and be persuaded by your views on education and other issues who simply don’t want to tune into this going negative commercial against Tom Moran.

      Thank you for listening.  

      Respectfully, Steven  

      Reply

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