Newark Students Boycott School to Protest Christie, Underfunding and Charter Schools

The Newark Students Union has organized a massive student boycott of Newark Public Schools today because many of them are too young to take their vote to the polls — but not too young to exercise their first amendment rights to protest and expose Gov. Chris Christie's real record on public education.

On a daily basis, these young people experience the consequences of Christie's underfunding of public schools, his refusal to follow the funding formula and his total lack of concern for local control of the state's public schools.

For Christie, this is really about his agenda for co-opting community resources; not the actual needs of the community. If that wasn't already obvious based on the fact that he's cut funding to Newark Public Schools by $56 million dollars, then it should be even more glaring after his infamous statement to the press a few months ago claiming that he doesn't "care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them."  

This wasn't just another episode of Christie's public bravado. This remains his clearest statement yet on his opinion of public schools in general and Newark Public Schools in particular. His rigid ideological opposition to proper funding, community participation and fixing our schools' broken infrastructure is designed to destabilize public education in New Jersey and replace it with a for-profit charter school model controlled by investors, corporations and the economic elite, instead of the parents, students and communities who have a vested interested in our children's future.

For years parents, students and community stakeholders in Newark have demanded a place at the table and a real voice in the direction of our public schools. State control has failed the city of Newark and has rendered the community voiceless in all official dealings. The Newark Board of Education passed a vote of no confidence in Cami Anderson's performance (the Christie-appointed superintendent of Newark Public Schools). This vote was based on the direct action of parents and students in Newark who are wholly unsatisfied with the direction Newark Public Schools have taken. At every turn, Chris Christie has thwarted local control in Newark, even after Newark achieved required benchmarks.

Let's be honest, Facebook money will not save our schools. Privatization has not solved the problem. Raiding teachers' salaries has not created democratic public schools. The answer is community control and a democratic, transparent process that affords parents, students and teachers the opportunity to work in the interest of their community. The truth is that the Christie administration is content to strip Newark of all decision making power over our public schools. It serves Christie's agenda to have the community fragmented and disempowered using state control.

These facts are clear to Newark's youth, which is why the Newark Students Union has organized  o protest Chris Christie's vision for their future. These young activists have a bold vision for their future. A future where Newark controls our own public schools. A future where students, parents, teachers and communities have a decision making role at the table. A future where students learn and teachers teach in buildings that are free of toxic mold, asbestos and rat infestations. A future where public schools are community spaces used for democratic decision-making; not corporate profiteering.

And they're not alone. Dozens of community partners in Newark and across New Jersey support the work that these young people have begun. The Sagner Family Foundation has helped fund the work of the Newark Students Union and CWA Local 1037 has opened their doors and provided the space and the supplies the Newark Students Union need to organize for a better public education system.

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Trina Scordo
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