Picture of the Federal Reserve for Newark School Privatization: The Newark Charter School Fund Building

Student walk-outs in New Jersey

Thousands of New Jersey high school students walked out of class Tuesday to protest budget cuts.  This was a result of a statewide event organized using text messages and social networking websites like Facebook – a cybernetic mobilization of human energy and “just say no”.

On April 27, 2010 more than 2,000 students in Newark, New Jersey just got up and walked out of their schools, stopped traffic on downtown streets in the city and rallied at City Hall, chanting “Save our schools.” Commercial businesses fearful of demonstrators, kept their doors locked as the student crowd moved up and down Broad Street chanting. 

The student walk-out is a result of massive budget cuts and deficits hitting the state of New Jersey like a strapped razor.  This is truly stupendous news for those of us attempting to save public education from the claws of Arne Duncan and his Race to the Top proposal that promises to turn education into fertile ground for kill-baby-kill privatization, training and containment.  The movement by students in New Jersey follows similar walk-outs by K-12 students throughout the nation and it is a testimony for where the opposition to privatization and corporate pillage lies: with our youth.

The state of New Jersey and its coin operated politicians are now engaged in a public services killing spree, cutting arts, music, literature classes, dance classes, drama and culture in a move designed to reduce education to training for competition in the corporate world order while moving the crisis caused by capitalism onto the backs of workers, parents, teachers and students.  They won’t even let kindergarten students color in class!

One student, Sharmaine Jones, a junior at Newark Central High who joined Newark’s protest stated:

“I want to have a better future,” (ABClocal, April 27, 2010) http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=7405045).

Sharmaine said the robotics club that she participates in is expected to be eliminated next year and worries that not having it will hurt her chances at a college scholarship.

According to ABClocal, online out of New Jersey:

“It wasn’t clear how many of the state’s 406,000 public high school students participated, but a Facebook page used to organize the protests had some 17,000 fans by Tuesday. Walkouts also were reported at Rancocas Valley High School in Mount Holly, Montclair High School and Ocean Township High School” (ibid).

On the social networking sites, some students reported successful protests including hundreds of students; others criticized classmates for wimping out and not joining the walk-out. Some students said school officials didn’t try to stop them, while others reported getting detention for participating.

Organizer of the walk-out Michelle Lauto, 18, who graduated last year from Old Tappan High School in Bergen County and is now a student at Pace University in New York, said she wanted to join the cause because her mother is a teacher and her sister is a school secretary who hopes to become a teacher eventually.

Lauto said she created the Facebook page about a month ago and invited her 600 or so online friends – few of them high school students – to participate. It caught on quickly and became the impetus for the walk-out.  Lauto, who is an actress who’s especially concerned that art programs could be eliminated stated:

“What we want to do is get attention to the issue and show primarily that the youth is not apathetic to the issue” (ibid).

She went on to note to the New York Times that she was amazed and gratified that so many students had responded to her direct call for action. She said the state education cuts had really hit home because her mother and sister both work in public schools in Hudson County (In New Jersey, a Civics Lesson in the Internet Age Winnie Hu, April 27, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/28/nyregion/28jersey.html?ref=nyregion)

The Economics of New Jersey

John Hallacy, Merrill Lynch analyst said on March 29, 2010 that New Jersey’s bonds should be ranked a step below those assigned by the three major credit-rating firms, as the state faces a $46 billion pension deficit and record high debt-load as a result of the blow-back of thirty years of Reganomics and the Wall Street crash of 2008 that has devastated pensions and New Jersey city and state budgets. New Jersey is the third-most indebted U.S. state in the nation according to Moody’s and has expanded its borrowings to a record $33.9 billion as of June 30, from $31.8 billion a year earlier ((N.J. Deserves Lower Bond Rating, Merrill Lynch Says (Update1), March 29, 2010, April 29, 2010, Dopp, Terrence, http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-29/n-j-deserves-lower-bond-rating-merrill-lynch-says-update1-.html).  The city is awash in corruption, debt and poverty.

Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, on March 16th called for $10 billion in spending reductions to help close a $10.7 billion budget hole without raising taxes. His plan would cut more than $1.2 billion from aid to schools and municipalities, lower transit funding and skip the state’s $3 billion payment into the pension system.  All of this a slap in the face for the working class of New Jersey and their families.  

The Wall Street vultures that have brought down the city through market fundamentalist policies and Milton Friedman economics have little to fear as they’ve pocketed their bonuses and sold their toxic derivatives and CDO’s.  Furthermore they are gleeful.  Not wanting to face any taxation large corporations they are now trying to get their selected representatives like Christie to shove the crisis down the throats of students, and they are finding that the students and teachers are not taking it.

According to the report released by Merrill-Lynch:

“The lapsed pension funding is “cause for continuing concern” (ibid).

The state is, like most in the nation, is literally broke and cannot meet its current obligations to provide social services, pensions to their public workers or decent public schools, let alone face the economic future. Like Schwarzenegger in California (see www.dailycensored.com on State pensions) corporations are to be eliminated from any consideration when it comes to paying taxes or participating in the common good.  In fact, the opposite is true; now that the invasion of capital has left labor without public services, the next move is private decapitation of essential public services and give-backs through working people’s pension strangulation and raised age limits for retirement eligibility.

Howard Sitzer, a research analyst on the Merrill Lynch report admitted that Christie’s attempts to cut schools will result in “significant” firings of teachers and government workers, prolonging the state’s economic recovery. The governor will face a crucial test in whether he can push his plans unchanged through the Democrat-controlled Legislature, according to the analyst (ibid). 

Sure, for capitalism is its own gravedigger, stepping on one bump in the carpet of gloom while another arises.  The only way out of this crisis is a massive investment by the federal government to shore up jobs and save hard earned pensions while forcing businesses to pay their fair share of taxation.

The mass firings planned by the neo-liberal Christie administration will fall as it always does, on the backs of social worker, teachers, school counselors, classified staff, working class pensions and working people, mostly of color, in general.  All this is occurring while the mendacious captains of industry sit at hearings held by Congress on regulating the financial industry which for so many decades has been allowed to ride roughshod over working people’s lives and cannibalize city pensions, create monstrous deficits and destroy public life. 

There is little doubt that if New Jersey’s bond rating goes any lower the federal government will have to step in to bail out the failing state itself; either the federal government or the IMF.  If not then services will decline and the economy will worsen along with social unrest, something Newark knows all too well.

The battle over school funding has been especially acrimonious this year since Governor Chris Christie’s budget proposal last month sharpened the axe and called for the public schools to see their combined direct state and federal aid decreased by about 11 percent on average – with many districts getting bigger reductions than that.  The situation is untenable verging on explosive.

This is what is fueling student walk outs and not only in New Jersey but throughout the nation (see Education, www.dailycensored.com).  While Wall Street financiers walk with their pirated loot and local politicians prepare the ‘gas chamber’ for public services and their workers, students are seeing their futures literally melt in face of the economic piracy and outright robbery of city funds and they are not going to stand for it as so many walkouts have revealed in the last few weeks (see www.dailycensored.com), Author’s posts, Danny Weil for more on the growing student walk-outs and fiscal crisis of the states and pensions).

The student protests and walk-outs are not only a result of the bankrupt situation of the failing state but they come one week after voters in 59 percent of the state’s school districts rejected higher property tax levies to pay for schools, leaving municipal governing bodies to make cuts. It was the first time in 34 years that the majority of budgets were defeated. 

Most of the state’s school districts planned teacher layoffs and tax increases to make up for the lost aid. The high number of rejections indicated voters weren’t happy with that approach.  However nowhere did Christie propose to manage the crisis by taxing large corporations or regulating capital or for calling for cuts in high level administrative salaries.  Instead, Christie put forth a plan to avoid the firings and program cuts to schools whereby school employees would agree to one-year salary freezes and to start paying 1.5 percent of their salaries toward their health insurance premiums; in other words, if they would shoulder the bankers’ criminal behaviors and financial pillage of the country.

The reaction of the Teacher Unions

Although most of the state’s teachers unions have balked at the idea, saying Christie is unfairly trying to balance the state’s budget at their expense, they have been part of the problem, not standing up forcefully enough for public education and increasingly buying into the charter school movement that is sweeping the state like locusts.  The NJEA even went so far as to say that students were “engaging in civil disobedience” but shouldn’t walk out of classes, showing their alliance with and capitulation to the disaster economic plans by Christie, Duncan and Mayor of Newark Booker when it comes to a do-over for New Jersey public schools. 

The New Jersey Educational Association has even been made aware of illegalities and irregularities in public school policy, but sat on their hands, refusing to step up for working people and their children.  I will cover more on this in an article soon for Daily Censored but suffice it to say the NJEA is buying into the Arne Duncan plan for decimating public education by embracing privatization.  They are climbing on board the Conestoga wagon of charter schools and turning a blind eye to actual teacher firings and administrative abuse.  It is no surprise they have little to offer in the way of standing up to the crisis and that they did not side with the students in their walkouts.

Christie, on the other hand, has been not only unapologetic about the financial devastation of his state, but worse; he consistently criticizes the leaders of the New Jersey Education Association for being selfish.  By criticizing the leaders of the NJEA, Christie has shown further contempt for public workers throughout the state he is failing to serve. 

However, much of it is bluff or perhaps like an Argentinean tango where each party falls into the others arms as they square off on the dance floor as ‘partners’.  Meanwhile students are left with little or no learning opportunities as the economic crisis plays itself out with Jack the Ripper speed.

There is more ‘cooking’ in New Jersey than the public knows and the press will print

Student speakers derided the governor and questioned why Mayor Cory Booker hadn’t intervened.  They called for supporting another mayoral candidate, Clifford Minor (ABClocal, http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=7405045).

Michael Drewniak, mouthpiece for the huckster Booker said he hoped schools were doing what they could to keep students in the classrooms – and he stated that he believed the protesters may have been misguided.  Misguided by whom?  Better said, they were lied to by the same Cory Booker who started the Newark Charter School Fund with his New York business partners and who has for years now coupled with Joel Klein and his friends in an attempt to import https://dailycensored.com/files/css/the_new_york_privatization_plans_of_public_schools_to_new_jersey. _he_has_not_been_alone.css; Bret Schundler has been closely involved as readers will find out in future episodes on the ill-fate of New Jersey in upcoming reports in Daily Censored.  So has the Archdiocese and well heeled political families in Newark, as I will note soon. 

Education commissioner, Bret D. Schundler, urged schools to enforce attendance policies and not let students walk out of class.  This sounded like a clarion call to bar the door of the school, locking students inside while policing them outside. State education officials said they had a call from one district that had moved students taking standardized tests to another part of the building because of potential noise.  But Schundler can do nothing without resorting to the military state, the New Jersey police.  Not only is his credibility tempered by his sordid personal history, but Schundler has deep roots in the crisis as I will report soon for readers.

Booker’s ‘brain’ did not elaborate nor did he speak to student concerns over cuts in programs, fired teachers and forced canned curriculum and testing.  The fact that students cannot get an education in New Jersey didn’t seem to come into the mind of the mayoral spokesman and the reasons are not due to ignorance they are due to the secret parliament’s plans to remake over the school system in the image of The Harlem Children’s Zone that Arne Duncan and his business cohorts plan for New Jersey.  In fact, the plan is all ready in the making and as readers will see in coming weeks at Daily Censored, the vicious and hidden curriculum for New Jersey schools has historical roots marinated in questionable business practices if not out and out fraud and deceit; it is based on corruption, illegalities, violations of the public records act and the public meetings acts in New Jersey. 

This author will elaborate further in a five part series on New Jersey and its connections to Joel Klein in New York and how the “public school body snatchers” are operating at full speed and with deep pockets to disassemble all of New Jersey K-12 education, fire as many teachers they can identify as non ‘team’ players and work to bring Teach for America to New Jersey for low-paid teaching positions.

Mayor Booker is the head honcho in the fight against public education in Newark and has put his rancid plans into play with key players from New York like Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, and The Newark Charter School Fund, which he started in 2008 as a bank for billionaires and their plans to reconfigure New Jersey schools into charters.  Of course no one at the mayor’s office will say any of this nor will their Machiavellians like Drewniak comment on specific questions.  According to the delusional Drewniak:

“It is also our firm hope that the students were motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever (ibid).

Hardly spring fever in a city and state bereft of the ability to work, eat, get educated and survive.  Cory Booker and his well-paid valet will find this out soon for this is just the beginning as the public becomes aware of the massive fraud and schools de-rangements these vipers have been engaged in for decades. 

Students Speak Out

In Montclair, one student carried a sign that read, jokingly, “Thiss is wat happen when yu fire teechers – students get dum.” (ibid).

A 17-year-old senior, Donovan Gaines, lamented that the school’s internship program for seniors was eliminated because of budget cuts:

“I feel like it’s not our fault – the debt that New Jersey has – we shouldn’t have to pay for it” (ibid).

The New York Times online, April 27th quoted students in the walk-out as saying:

“At Columbia High School in Maplewood, that looked like 200 students marching around the building waving signs reading “We are the future” and “We love our teachers.”

At Montclair High School, it meant nearly half of the 1,900 students gathered outside the school in the morning, with some chanting, “No more budget cuts.”

“It feels like he is taking money from us, and we’re already poor,” said Johanna Pagan, 16, a sophomore at West Side High School in Newark, who feared her school would lose teachers and extracurricular programs because of the governor’s cuts. “The schools here have bad reputations, and we need aid and we need programs to develop” (In New Jersey, a Civics Lesson in the Internet Age Winnie Hu, April 27, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/28/nyregion/28jersey.html?ref=nyregion).

Teachers, students, their parents and other public workers throughout the state must now mobilize, as they did in Florida last week, to stop the guillotining of crucial public services for our students and public workers who provide essential services we need to survive.  The good news is that students understand what is happening to them and they are now leading the way to begin to forge a different future for themselves and hopefully for the scourge called capitalism that has led to the hollowing out of cities, the debt peonage to banksters, the credit crisis’ and the attacks on working people’s pensions, livelihoods and education. 

Washington D.C. saw student rallies against Arne Duncan’s malevolent machinations just this month, followed by Florida and now New Jersey.  Rhode Island saw its share of student walk outs over changes in scheduling due to budget cuts, school closures and failed economic policies.  Add Detroit to the mix, one of the most progressive cites for educational struggle.  We can only hope more and more young people fight for their essential rights to a decent affordable public education.  The good news is they are, and they will!  They always have!

Postscript

Please stay tuned to www.dailycensored.com in the next few weeks as we begin to uncover massive fraud, misrepresentation, teacher and child abuse, hackneyed plans and conjured up conspiracies regarding New Jersey and its public educational system.  There is much more to the story of the receding educational opportunities, economic devastation and the grand plans put into place by the “made men” of New Jersey. 

With the help of two whistle blowers from New Jersey, one now working with the ACLU, Daily Censored promises to give readers an unvarnished look at the past as the present and uncover for you the actual and alleged criminal conspiracies designed at the highest levels of government by those who would like the public to think of them as respected leaders when in fact they have been garroting the economic and social system of New Jersey for years.