Progressive Calendar 04.13.11
From: David Shove (
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2011 01:22:02 -0700 (PDT)
\               P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   04.13.11

1. Alliant vigil    4.13 7am
2. Evil film/panel  4.13 10am
3. Health care      4.13 10:30am
4. Labor rights     4.13 7pm
5. AbUSEd/immigrant 4.13 7pm
6. Poetry 1950-now  4.13 7pm
7. White privilege  4.13-16

8. Strib     - Cossetta seeks living-wage waiver from St Paul
9. Stan Karp - "Waiting for Superman" - vs public schools/teacher's unions

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From: AlliantACTION <alliantaction [at]>
Subject: Alliant vigil 4.13 7am

Join us Wednesday morning, 7-8 am
Now in our 14th year of consecutive Wednesday
morning vigils outside Alliant Techsystems,
7480 Flying Cloud Drive Eden Prairie.
We ask Who Profit$? Who Dies?
directions and lots of info:

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["Waiting for Superman" is right-wing, vs public schools, vs teacher's
unions, financed by big rightwing money. Evil. I assume the panal below is
gung-ho; show up and question and if need be give 'em hell. See item 9
below. -ed]

From: Joe Nathan <jnathan [at]>
Subject: Evil film/panel 4.13 10am    [ed head]

For those interested and available, this is an invitation to attend a free
panel presentation with Brenda Casselius, Commissioner of Education,
Charlie Weaver, head of the Minnesota Business Partnership, John Stanoch,
formerly president of Quest, Kayla Yang-Best, director of the Cargill
Foundation and yours truly.  We'll be talking about the movie "Waiting for
Superman," business involvement in school reform, and what does this mean
for Minnesota.  Denise Johnson, education editorial page writer for the
*Star Tribune* will moderate the panel.

It's free, tomorrow (Wed), April 13 from 10 AM to noon at the Kagin
Commons building on Macalester campus.  Kagin is the 2nd building north of
the northwest corner of Snelling and Grand in St Paul.

It's free, in Kagin Hall, which is the 2nd building north of the northwest
corner of Snelling and Grand in St. Paul.  We are asking people to RSVP -
mnbp [at]

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From: Joel Albers <joel [at]>
Subject: Health care 4.13 10:30am

Press Conference at the Capitol:

Held in state offfice bldg (SOB) next to capitol in St Paul. Thanks to
Robbie, Rm 181 has been reserved on April 13, wednesday,10:30am. The room
is spacious, has a podium with lot of chairs, and we hope to get a lot of
media out there, both mainstream and independent.

-Diana Longrie,attorney
-Janet Asanchayev, Older Women's League
-MN Nurses Assoc.
-John Marty,legislator
-Joel Albers, UHCAN-MN

MNA and Take Action MN are the latest co-sponsors of this event. The
disabilty groups, coincidentally will be having their own press conference
today at the Capitol.

Our solutions to saving essential HC services at the press conf are
deprivatizing HMOs and Consolidation of state health care programs. Below
are descriptions of how this can happen. I included Sen Marty's bill
describing deprivitization.

-HMOs have made extortionary profits off MN's public Medicaid (MA), and
MNCare programs,while 1000s of children with disablilites, seniors in
nursing homes, and low income recipients of these programs face
devastating cuts.

-Over $3 billion a year of taxpayer money funds these programs into a
black box of unaccountability, of which this year alone HMOs kept $300
million in PROFITS, and over several years HMOs have hoarded $2.5 billion
into their reserve funds.

-MN's HMOs are middlemen,fiscal intermediaries, who, like banks, pool
profits into a reserve fund and invest it into "publicly-traded
securities".MOST of their profits derive from these investments.HMOs
mostly lose money on operations, primarily due to their high
administrative costs. All while incorporated as 501(C)(3) non-profits.

-Its time for HMOs to return the reserves to our state's own reserve fund,
the Health Care Access Fund. It's time to get HMOs off corporate welfare
and return taxpayer funded public programs back to the public sector.

Consolidation of state health care programs:

1.Consolidation of all state publicly financed health care purchasing in
to one department of state government. Requires the commissioner of human
services to convene an interagency task force, with significant community
representation, to develop a plan for coordinating state and local
government health care programs, in order to improve the efficiency and
quality of health care delivery and make effective use of the state's
economies and efficiencies of scale and contracting expertise.

The state agencies that currently administer health care insurance
purchasing include: Dept of Human Services; Dept of Labor and Industry;
Dept of MN Management and Budget (subsumed Dept of Employer Relations);
Dept of Corrections; Dept of Administration. Departments that regulate
health care providers: MN Dept of Health, MN Dept of Commerce. Other
tax-financed entities of which public funding already pays for health
insurance include: MN's 344 k-12 School Districts plus ECFE; University of
MN and other higher education; City and County employees. This totals well
over 1.5 million Minnesotans and the cost savings would likely be at least
$2 billion or more, but we need to estimate this. The billions saved would
be the only way to prevent huge cuts to essential services to children
with disabilities, seniors in nursing homes, mental health services, etc.
and the 12,000 who will lose health insurance just like that. It is likely
that some of the savings could go toward jobs in health care such as
nurses, other health care delivery, not wasteful insurance company


     Subdivision 1. Purpose; intent. (a) To provide coverage under
medical assistance
and MinnesotaCare, Minnesota has large contracts totaling over
$3,000,000,000 per year in
state funds. The state began contracting these programs out in 1983
as a pilot project with
the hope of saving money. However, the pilot project was never truly
evaluated and no
state agency has conducted an audit of these contracts for quality
and cost. Under current
practice, the state covers all expenses that the health plans incur
whether justified or not.
(b) At a time of state financial troubles, rather than attempt to
repair these
dysfunctional contracts, the state can reduce costs and improve care
by contracting directly
with medical providers and paying primary care clinics to provide
case management to
     Subd. 2. HMO contracts. The commissioner of human services shall
not renew
the state's contracts with HMOs providing services to enrollees in
the medical assistance
and MinnesotaCare programs, except for Minnesota seniors health
options (MSHO) and
special needs basic care (SNBC). To deal with the complexity of
interaction between
Medicare and medical assistance, the commissioner shall continue
contracting for health
care for MSHO and SNBC. The commissioner shall continue to contract
with counties
providing care through county-based purchasing systems. For all other
enrollees, the
commissioner shall contract directly with health care providers to
deliver covered services.

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From: Margaret Levin <margaret_levin [at]>
Subject: Labor rights 4.13 7pm

Labor Rights Briefing: Wisconsin Churns Cheese, Minnesotans Make Hot Dish
MN Hot Dish and WI Cheese Tasting
Wednesday April 13, 2011: 7:00pm
North Star Chapter Office, 2327 East Franklin Avenue Minneapolis MN

Sierra Club's Servin' it up!†We see Wisconsin.†We love Minnesota. And we
know that working families make Minnesota great.†Join us as we learn about
the so-called Right to Work bill that's been proposed at our Capitol and
what it would mean for Minnesota's environment.†Bring an empty belly and
a fun spirit.¬†And YES, we will provide antacids.†More info and RSVP:
margaret.levin [at] ¬!/event.php?eid=210927565585368

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To: pattypax [at]
Subject: AbUSEd/immigrant 4.13 7pm

Human Rights / Social Justice Films and Speakers
Film--Abused (Immigrant worker tragedy)
will happen on Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
7:00 PM
Beth Jacob Congregation
1179 Victoria Curv

Co-Sponsored: AbUSEd: The Postville Story
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7:00 PM
Jewish Community Action's 100th Anniversary of the Triangle
Shirtwaist Factory Fire Commemorative Series

Film Premiere of AbUSEd: The Postville Story
Luis Argueta will introduce his new film that focuses on the
Postville Story and explores various immigrant and worker themes.

Beth Jacob Congregation - 1179 Victoria Curve, Mendota Heights, MN

On March 25, 1911, fire broke out in New York City's Triangle
Shirtwaist Factory and 146 workers, mostly young Jewish and Italian
immigrant women, died. Exit doors had been locked, elevators failed, fire
escapes crumbled, and the fire department's ladders did not reach high

In the aftermath of this disaster, the owners were acquitted of
responsibility by a jury. But, immigrant women garment workers across the
city built up the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) and
negotiated economic and physical security, while the city government
enacted new regulations about workplace safety and inspections.

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From: Dara Syrkin <dsyrkin [at]>
Subject: Poetry 1950-now 4.13 7pm

Unless otherwise noted, all events take place at
The Loft Literary Center at Open Book
1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis
Best practice: check the Loft's website for additions and changes to the
calendar of events.

Wednesday, April 13, 7 p.m.
"Lineage: American Poetry Since 1950"

In collaboration with the National Book Foundation, the Loft presents
poets, professors, critics, book sellers, and publishers responding to the
list of winners of the National Book Award in Poetry since 1950. Among the
winners of the award are Robert Bly, Marilyn Hacker, Lucille Clifton, Mark
Doty, and, most recently, Terrance Hayes. What, if any, is the connective
tissue between these poets? Do they represent something uniquely American?
Was their selection the result of a political moment? What story do they
tell about American poetry since 1950? With Philip S. Bryant, Arleta
Little, Kristin Naca, Daniel Slager, and Hans Weyandt. Moderated by Eric

Philip S. Bryant is the author of several collections of poetry, including
Sermon on a Perfect Spring Day, which was nominated for a 1999 Minnesota
Book Award in Poetry. His most recent collection is Stompin' at The Grand
Terrace:  A Jazz Memoir in Verse with music by Carolyn Wilkins. Born and
raised in Chicago, Bryant is a Professor of English at Gustavus Adolphus
College in St. Peter, Minnesota.

Arleta Little is the executive director of the Givens Foundation for
African American Literature where she has worked for more than five years
to enrich cultural understanding and learning through programs that
advance and celebrate African American literature and writers. As part of
her work at the Givens Foundation, she produces the NOMMO African American
Author Series, a series of conversations between black writers on the
state of the art of African American literature. As a poet, Arleta has
studied with literary masters Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Ishmael Reed,
and Patricia Smith. She holds degrees in English, social work, and public
affairs. Her poetry has been published in Konch Magazine and she has
edited conversations with luminary authors for Black Renaissance Noire.
She is currently working on her first book of poetry.

Eric Lorberer holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst. He has published poems in dozens of literary journals, ranging
from American Poetry Review to VOLT, and his essays and reviews have
appeared in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. He has received a
SASE/Jerome Fellowship for his poetry, and an essay version of his talk
"The Ashbery Bridge" was named a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays
2008. As the editor of Rain Taxi Review of Books, he is responsible for
the voice and style that has brought the magazine widespread acclaim.
Lorberer also is the director of the Twin Cities Book Festival, has served
as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and speaks at
conferences and literary festivals around the country as an advocate for
independent publishing and literary culture.

Kristin Naca is a long-time member of the Macondo Writers' Workshop in San
Antonio, Texas. Her collection of poetry, Bird Eating Bird, was selected
for the National Poetry Series mtvU Prize in 2008 and appears with Harper
Perennial. It was named finalist for the Audre Lorde Prize and Lambda
Literary Award. Naca has held fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers'
Conference, the Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges, and University of
Nebraska-Lincoln. She serves as the 2010-11 Poetry Mentor at the Loft
Literary Center. She teaches creative writing, Latino and Asian American
Poetry at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Daniel Slager is the publisher and CEO of Milkweed Editions. Prior to
joining Milkweed as editor in chief in 2005, he was an editor at Harcourt
Trade Publishers in New York, where he worked with internationally
renowned writers such as GŁnter Grass, Josť Saramago, Wislawa Szymborska,
and Umberto Eco. And prior to joining Harcourt, he was the associate
editor of Grand Street, a leading quarterly magazine of literature and
fine arts.

Hans Weyandt has been selling books in Saint Paul and Minneapolis since
1999. A co-owner of Micawber's Books since 2003, his entire adult life has
been professionally devoted to selling great books. Poetry speaking, he
loves Marie Howe, Yusef Komunyakaa and Richard Wright.

Cosponsored with the National Book Foundation.

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From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: White privilege 4.13-16

The White Privilege Conference: "This Land is Whose Land? Defining
Citizenship. Understanding Access. Taking Action."
April 13 through 16 Sheraton Bloomington Hotel, Minneapolis.

For students, youth, teachers, college faculty, activists, social workers,
healthcare workers, anyone. Based on understanding, respecting,
connecting. Fosters difficult, critical dialogues around white supremacy,
diversity, multicultural education, leadership, social and economic
justice, intersecting systems of privilege and oppression. Gain strategies
for addressing issues to advance social and economic justice. Hosted by:
Minnesota Justice Collaborative. Sponsored by: Minnesota State Colleges
and Universities, Augsburg, Gustavus Adophus, Goddard, YWCA, and more. FFI
and to Register: Visit

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Cossetta seeks living-wage waiver from St Paul

Cossetta Italian Market and Pizzeria owner Dave Cossetta wants help from
the city for his $10 million expansion project, but he doesn't want to
abide by the city requirement that he pay all his workers more than $10.16
an hour.

After a public hearing Wednesday, the city's Housing and Redevelopment
Authority is expected to vote on a $1.6 million loan for Cossetta and a
waiver to the city's living-wage policy. The city requires businesses
receiving $100,000 or more in a subsidy to pay workers a living wage,
currently defined as $10.16 an hour.

Cossetta meets the requirement for many of his full-time employees, but
not for the part-timers. The 100-year-old W. 7th Street market is growing,
taking over the parking lot on the corner, doubling the restaurant's
seating area, tripling the size of the food market, expanding and
enhancing the menu and adding a rooftop table-service restaurant.

Bernie Hesse, director of special projects for the United Food and
Commercial Workers Local 1189, isn't happy with the proposed exemption
from the wage requirement. He said he expects a vote of approval by the
authority, which includes the same membership as the City Council.

"They all want to pretend like they're friends of working people and then
they do a deal like this," Hesse said.

St. Paul City Hall has seen bruising battles over wages in the past. In
2001, the city granted Target Corp. a living-wage exemption for the
remodeling of the downtown department store then called Dayton's.

Council Member Dave Thune represents the ward that includes the Cossetta
expansion, which he called "an extremely important development."

Thune said the city understands some businesses need to be exempted from
the living-wage requirement, especially for part-time entry-level jobs.

The restaurant's expansion is expected to provide 140 new construction
jobs and 100 new full-time equivalent positions by 2015, according to
documents submitted to the city by Cossetta.

Spokeswoman Janelle Tummel of the city's Planning and Economic Development
agency said she can't release Cossetta's salary information until after
the vote. Cossetta said he has several full-time employees. "They not only
have health care insurance, but they have a 401(k) match," he said.

Hesse said he thought the $1.6 million could be better spent elsewhere,
perhaps to help businesses on University Avenue cope during the
construction of the light-rail line. But the federal jobs money likely
isn't transferable to other projects, city staff said.

Thune and Pat Harris said they will vote for the exemption. Council
President Kathy Lantry and council members Melvin Carter and Dan Bostrom
say they haven't decided.

[Contact the whole City Council and demand no waiver.
Politicians: which is it - the people and the law, or the rich and powerful?
Boycott Cosetta's. Shame them. Eating there is like crossing the picket line.
Replace any Council Member who votes for the waiver.
Thune has strong Green Party opposition (Jim Ivey) this fall election. If Thune
votes for this, make him history. -ed]

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[The film "Waiting for Superman" is having a widespread anti-public school
influence. Odds are some one (or two or three...) people you know, people
you thought were rational and just, have swallowed this nasty corporate
propaganda hook line and stinker. This article will help prepare you to
argue against them and for public schools. See item 2 above. -ed]

Superhero School Reform Heading Your Way
Now Playing in Newark, NJ
By Stan Karp
Source: Not Waiting for SupermanFriday, December 10, 2010

Long before director Davis Guggenheim jumped out of a phone booth in his
Superman costume, I spent three decades as a high school teacher in
Paterson, one of New Jersey's poorest cities. Paterson had its own 15
minutes of school reform fame in the 1980s, thanks to Principal Joe Clark,
whose bullhorn and baseball bat were featured in another superhero school
movie, Lean on Me, a sanitized version of Clark's reign of error at
Eastside High School.

Watching this year's rise to fame of Michelle Rhee, the former Washington,
D.C., schools chancellor who is one of the heroes of Guggenheim's Waiting
for "Superman," I was struck by how the targets had changed. Clark's
baseball bat was aimed at the young black males who were demonized as a
criminal element in the schoolyard. Rhee's weapon was a broom to sweep
away all those lousy teachers and their unions. 1

But what hasn't changed is the use of emotionally charged images and
simplistic rhetoric to frame complicated issues about public education in
ways that promote elite agendas.

Across the country, Waiting for "Superman" has mobilized celebrity star
power and high-profile political support for an education "reform"
campaign that is destabilizing even relatively successful schools and
districts while generating tremendous upheaval in struggling ones.

The now-familiar buzzwords are charter schools, merit pay, choice, and
accountability. But the larger goal, to borrow a phrase from the Democrats
for Education Reform (DFER), a political lobby financed by hedge fund
millionaires that is a chief architect of the campaign, is to "burst the
dam" that has historically protected public education and its $600 billion
annual expenditures from unchecked commercial exploitation and
privatization. 2

The larger goal is to "burst the dam" that has historically protected
public education and its $600 billion annual expenditures from unchecked
commercial exploitation and privatization.

In New Jersey, an odd alliance of Oprah, Facebook billionaire Mark
Zuckerberg, Republican Gov. Chris Christie, and "rock star mayor" Cory
Booker have put Newark in the forefront of this effort to impose business
model ed reform. But the campaign is headed for a district near you, if it
hasn't arrived already, and the stakes are high. "I don't think it will
kill public education," the dean of Seton Hall University's College of
Education told a New Jersey columnist. "But it already has maimed it". 3

Superman Lands in New Jersey

Superman landed in New Jersey last September during a two-week media
circus that included the premiere of the film; two over-the-top Oprah
episodes filled with self-congratulatory hype from Rhee, Guggenheim, and
Bill Gates; and an appearance by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who
tried (and failed) to explain why the release of the film was "a Rosa
Parks moment". 4 This all led up to the bizarre spectacle of Oprah
announcing from Chicago on national TV a $100 million donation from
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to fund a "takeover" of the Newark public
schools by Mayor Corey Booker.

Booker, a longtime proponent of private school vouchers and a member of
the DFER national advisory board who has been instrumental in moving the
Democrats to the right on education issues, 5 was on hand to accept the
gift along with Chris Christie, the most anti-public education governor
New Jersey has ever had. In less than a year, Christie, a Karl Rove
protege and rising star in the Republican Party, has presided over $1.2
billion in cuts to state school aid while pounding teachers and their
unions as greedy, overpaid public employees responsible for the state's
fiscal problems. When Oprah asked Zuckerberg why he chose Newark, he said,
"I believe in these guys".

For Christie, Zuckerberg's gift was a chance to change the conversation
after weeks of embarrassing criticism for sabotaging New Jersey's $400
million Race to the Top application. At the last minute, Christie had
scrapped a deal his education commissioner Bret Schundler worked out with
the New Jersey Education Association (in which Schundler said the state
conceded "almost nothing".) It later came out that Christie "said he
didn't care about the money," because there was no way he was going to
cooperate with the NJEA. When New Jersey eventually lost $400 million by
three points, Christie clumsily tried to cover up the details and fired
Schundler as a scapegoat. 6

Zuckerberg's donation did help Christie change the topic - even though it
came with a web of strings and was less than the governor's combined cuts
in municipal and school aid to Newark. 7 Spread out over five years, the
grant, even when matched, will amount to about 4 percent of the district's
nearly $900 million annual budget. It also will be channeled through a
newly created private foundation raising a host of legal and public
accountability issues. 8

The day after Oprah's TV extravaganza, Guggenheim, Zuckerberg, Booker, and
Christie all came to Newark for a special screening of Waiting for
"Superman". The event was held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center,
one block from the offices of the Education Law Center (ELC) where I work.
9 ELC is one of the nation's leading advocacy groups supporting equity in
school funding and won a series of landmark court decisions requiring the
state to increase aid to the poorest urban districts (more below). It
represents some 300,000 students and their families in New Jersey's urban
districts, including Newark.

In response to Oprah's announcement, reporters asked ELC's Executive
Director David Sciarra about the governance arrangement for Newark
schools, which have been under state control since 1995. Sciarra explained
there was no legal basis in New Jersey for mayoral control. Neither the
mayor nor the governor could make policy or spending decisions for the
school district since the takeover law invested that authority in the
state commissioner of education and the local advisory board. It also
outlined a clear process for restoring control to a locally elected school
board, which had been moving steadily forward until Zuckerberg and his
checkbook arrived. 10

"I'm Coming"

This legal analysis did not sit well with Gov. Christie, who was the
featured speaker at the Waiting for "Superman" showing. Sounding more like
Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry than Superman, Christie declared:

"You just watched that film and so did I - I'm going to fight as hard as
I can against those who believe that that is the status quo we're
protecting. ... There is nothing more important to the future of our state
and the future of our country than this fight, because this is the fight
that will define all of the other fights - the fight for America to
remain a dominant force for good in the world". 11

He continued with a veiled threat for ELC: "I have a message for the
lawyers who have made a lifetime out of suing us into failure: I'm

Christie hammered home his message that public education was failing
because of bad teachers protected by their unions - which, in fact, is
the central message of the film.

With the film as backdrop and Guggenheim in the room, Christie hammered
home his message that public education was failing because of bad teachers
protected by their unions - which, in fact, is the central message of the
film. The governor echoed themes he has promoted across the state and the
country: charters, vouchers, merit pay, and eliminating tenure constitute
the urgent reform agenda not only in struggling urban districts, but
everywhere as well.

A week later Christie made a campaign-type stop at a New Jersey charter
school with another Superman star, Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem
Children's Zone (HCZ). They spoke at Elysian Charter School in Hoboken, a
successful school that stands out as the charter with the largest
disparity in the state between the number of high-needs students served by
the school and the much higher number in the host district. 12 Christie
used the occasion to promote legislation that would allow for-profit
charter companies to expand into New Jersey and provide $360 million in
tax credits for private tuition vouchers.  13

Canada was there to support the governor's "reform agenda". When Christie
asked him to explain why the HCZ's widely praised model of
cradle-to-college supports works, Canada did not highlight the expanded
social services, class sizes under 15 with two certified teachers,
extended school days, or 11-month school years. He did not explain that
HCZ receives two-thirds of its funding from private sources or that, like
all the highly selective, privately subsidized charter schools featured in
Guggenheim's film, Canada's Promise Academies spend considerably more than
the public schools around them. Instead, Canada said, "We fire people who
don't work for our kids". (He didn't add that sometimes the people he
fires are the students. Several years ago an entire class of 7th graders
was dismissed for poor academic performance.) 14

"I love this guy," said the governor.

A "Wretched" System?

By conventional measures, New Jersey's public schools are among the most
successful in the nation. It has the highest high school graduation rate
and ranks in the top five states in every grade and subject tested by the
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It is one of the few
states where test score gaps among student subgroups have closed in recent
years. As Linda Darling-Hammond summarized:

Today, New Jersey, a state where 45 percent of students are of color,
ranks first in the nation in writing performance on NAEP and among the top
five states in every other subject area. ... Taking demographics into
account, New Jersey is arguably the highest achieving state in the nation.
It has cut its achievement gap in half over the last decade, and its
African American and Hispanic students outscore the average student in
California. And it did so in a state that is considered a strong teachers
union state, a factor that many reformers believe is reason one why
systemic improvement cannot happen.  15

New Jersey is also near the top in both educational investment and the
equitable distribution of those resources. The court decisions won by ELC
in what's known as the Abbott case produced the highest funding levels in
the country for poor urban districts. For ten years, roughly between 1998
and 2008, some 30 urban districts received per-pupil parity with the
richest suburban districts in a state that ranked at or near the top in
school spending. They also received extra funding for supplemental
programs including full-day, high-quality preschool, extended school days
and years, concentrated early literacy programs, a multi-billion dollar
program of school construction, and an unprecedented set of health and
social service supports.

The Abbott districts were the only place in the United States where the
kind of supplemental supports now universally praised in the Harlem
Children's Zone - which, as noted above, gets two-thirds of its funding
from private sources - were mandated for all high-needs students and
sustained, at least for a while, with public dollars.

As a result of these mandates, more than 40,000 3- and 4-year-olds now
attend the highest quality pre-K program in the country (which Christie
called "babysitting" during his election campaign 16). Fourth-grade test
score gaps have narrowed significantly, and New Jersey has some of the
nation's highest graduation rates for African American and Hispanic
students, despite persistent gaps with white and Asian students. There are
problematic aspects to each of these statistics, but they are not small
accomplishments. 17

To be sure, there have been many issues. The Abbott mandates never had the
sustained support of the state government or the Department of Education
which led to ongoing implementation and accountability concerns. Abbott
did not fix the school funding system for the state's other 575 school
districts, which have struggled with shrinking state aid and high local
property taxes. The Court decisions also did not undo NJ's pervasive
racial and class segregation, leaving some to debate whether Abbott was
the "Brown v. Board of Education" of school funding cases or more like
"Plessy v. Ferguson," a kind of reparations for a system of separate and
unequal education that remains intact even as the reparations disappear.

Perhaps most critically, the legal victories were never effectively
matched by the sustained political mobilization of the communities with
the most at stake and whose participation was crucial to turning the Court
mandates and increased funding into successful systems of district
schools. While many Abbott schools and districts made impressive gains,
others did not, and the state never conducted the systematic evaluation
that might explain the differences. 18

Still, Abbott led to major progress after decades of separate and unequal
schooling, and it was a sharp setback when first Democratic Gov. Jon
Corzine and then his successor Christie responded to growing state budget
pressures by moving to dismantle the Abbott programs.

Christie, however, has gone much further, linking his attacks on urban
schools to efforts to drive down the cost of public education statewide.
While the governor has repeatedly called Newark schools "an obscenity" and
Abbott a "failure," his spokesman declared the entire system "wretched".
"The NAEP rankings are irrelevant," an administration aide said. "We
should not take solace in the fact that we score well in a wretched system
that fails to adequately teach such a high percentage of children.." 19

Even wrapped in the gloss of Guggenheim's pseudo-documentary, it's clear
that Christie's education agenda is mainly about reducing spending,
cutting the cost of teacher salaries and benefits, shifting state aid from
urban to suburban districts, and privatizing public services. He balanced
his first budget by rolling back a millionaire's tax and cutting virtually
every education and social program in the state budget - except state aid
for charter schools. He has proposed paying for his merit pay plans with
savings from firing low-rated teachers, and sees the mostly nonunion, less
stable, and cheaper charter school teaching staff as a model for reducing

"You are masters at doing more with less," Christie told the state's
charter association last spring, and less is clearly the point. 20 Andrew
Rotherham, another former DFER board member and prominent proponent of
neoliberal education reform told the Wall Street Journal, Christie is "on
to something big - that the huge cost for public schools is no longer
sustainable". 21

"New Jersey is the canary in the coal mine," added Frederick Hess,
education policy director at the American Enterprise Institute. 22

"Bursting the Dam"

DFER and its allies have spent years putting in place the dynamite charges
it hopes will soon "burst the dam" and open the way to fundamentally
changing the landscape of U.S. public education. A recent DFER strategy
paper, subtitled Why the Next 24 Months Are Critical for Education Reform
Politics, describes the explicit targets as the "special interests
(primarily but not limited to teachers unions)" that "are able to assert
de facto veto power over the kinds of changes that could fundamentally
alter the way education is delivered in our communities". 23

These are the structures DFER & Co. want to replace with a market-based,
consumer-driven system. Merit pay, charters, tenure reform, and mayoral
control are steps along the way.

But in fact, the "dam" consists of the public, nonprofit character of
public schools, their control by local boards of education and districts,
their funding by public dollars, and their accountably, however imperfect,
to some degree of democratic oversight and decision-making. It also
includes decades of effort, and at times fierce struggle, to hold schools,
districts, and states accountable to mandates requiring equal access to a
free public education for all children. These are the structures DFER &
Co. want to replace with a market-based, consumer-driven system. Merit
pay, charters, tenure reform, and mayoral control are steps along the way.
As DFER sees it, "Change must be pushed at all levels and all across the
map in order to make the most of current opportunity for reform". 24

Additional clues about where this policy train is headed come from Andy
Smarick, one of Christie's newly installed assistant education
commissioners. Smarick is a former George W. Bush education official who
served as a policy analyst for the American Enterprise and Fordham
institutes, where he proposed replacing "failing schools" and districts
with market-based reforms inspired by the corporate world. He came to NJ
because, "I'm especially excited to get to lend a hand to the effort to
improve Newark's schools. The city has a set of superb charter
organizations, a remarkably strong nonprofit support infrastructure, and a
hard-charging mayor". 25

Smarick"s signature ideas are that investing in low-performing schools is
a "waste of human capital" and that charters are "the wave of the future".
He has written that "our relentless preoccupation with improving the worst
schools actually inhibits the development of a healthy urban public
education industry". Key to developing this "industry" is the rapid
expansion of charter schools and government subsidies for private and
religious schools. To clear the way for innovation, Smarick says schools
that do not meet the test scores targets in the federal No Child Left
Behind law should be given "only one option - closure". 26

Smarick does not see charters as either a vehicle for improving existing
schools and districts or even a compatible co-existing sector.
"Chartering's potential extends far beyond the role of stepchild or
assistant to districts," he says. "The only course that is sustainable,
for both chartering and urban education, embraces a third, more expansive
view of the movement's future: replace the district-based system in
America's large cities with fluid, self-improving systems of charter
schools. The system is the issue. The solution isn't an improved
traditional district; it's an entirely different delivery system for
public education: systems of chartered schools". 27 [Sort of like factory
farms. -ed]

This kind of radical right-wing social engineering is based on free-market
myths like the power of "churn": "The churn caused by closures isn't
something to be feared," says Smarick, "On the contrary, it's a familiar
prerequisite for industry health. Churn generates new ideas, ensures
responsiveness, facilitates needed change, and empowers the best to do
more. New entrants not only fill gaps, they have a tendency to better
reflect current market conditions. They are also far likelier to introduce
innovations: Google, Facebook, and Twitter were not products of
long-standing firms".

This market mythology overlooks the substantial record of charter school
failure and, at times, malpractice and corruption. It sees schools not as
outposts of local democracy or centers of civic activity, but as
disposable franchises that come and go as the market "churns," disrupting
communities and families who are viewed as consumers, not the collective
citizen-managers of a public institution. The trendy references to Google
and Facebook obscure less benign corporate "innovations" introduced by the
likes of Halliburton, Enron, and BP.

Turmoil in Christie's education department has led to speculation that
Smarick may follow his former boss and also make an early exit. But his
blueprint still bears attention:

If charter advocates carefully target specific systems with an exacting
strategy, the current policy environment will allow them to create
examples of a new, high-performing system of public education in urban

Here, in short, is one roadmap for chartering's way forward: First, commit
to drastically increasing the charter market share in a few select
communities until it is the dominant system and the district is reduced to
a secondary provider. The target should be 75 percent. Second, choose the
target communities wisely. Each should begin with a solid charter base (at
least 5 percent market share), a policy environment that will enable
growth (fair funding, nondistrict authorizers, and no legislated caps),
and a favorable political environment (friendly elected officials and
editorial boards, a positive experience with charters to date, and
unorganized opposition).

Third, secure proven operators to open new schools. To the greatest extent
possible, growth should be driven by replicating successful local charters
and recruiting high-performing operators from other areas. Fourth, engage
key allies like Teach for America, New Leaders for New Schools, and
national and local foundations to ensure the effort has the human and
financial capital needed. Last, commit to rigorously assessing charter
performance in each community and working with authorizers to close the
charters that fail to significantly improve student achievement.

In total, these strategies should lead to rapid, high-quality charter
growth and the development of a public school marketplace marked by
parental choice". 28

Something like this scenario is now playing out in Newark - with eerie
echoes of Michelle Rhee's recent tenure in D.C. Twelve percent of Newark
students are already enrolled in charters. A few of these schools are high
performing, but most are struggling at or below the levels of the
district's public schools, despite enrolling fewer numbers of the highest
needs students.  29

Although the narrative of Newark school failure has been used to drive
Christie's agenda, the reality is much more mixed. Progress in some Newark
schools has been remarkable, while in others poor school performance
persists amidst concentrated poverty rates of 80 percent or more. For
example, in the narrow test scores terms in which soundbite school
progress is usually measured, Newark cut the urbansuburban gap in half
between 2000 and 2008 at 4th grade and reduced the math gap at 11th grade
by 25 percent; language arts gaps remained unchanged. 30 The district is
also the site of some promising reform efforts, including an ambitious
Global Village project initiated by the national Broader Bolder Approach
and led by Pedro Noguera. The effort links seven neighborhood schools in a
comprehensive inside/outside strategy of supplemental services and
school-based change.  31

"Chartering" Newark

Nevertheless, Booker and Christie support rapid charter expansion in
Newark fueled by the same foundations and "key allies" mentioned in
Smarick's scenario with large infusions of money from hedge fund managers,
national and local foundations and now Zuckerberg.

Booker, however, has also been forced to draw some cautionary lessons from
the recent defeat of his friend, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, whose loss in a
September primary was seen as a vote of no confidence in Rhee and led to
her early exit as chancellor. Rhee was rejected by a voter revolt against
her dictatorial style and often arbitrary decisions to close schools, fire
teachers, and impose top-own reforms that wowed business leaders but
brought mostly turmoil and disruption to school communities. Like Joel
Klein in New York, Rhee's claims of success are based on illusory test
score gains that evaporate upon close inspection. 32 But ultimately it was
her inability to convince the city's voters and parents that her business
model reforms served their best interests that led to her sudden political
defeat. "Cooperation, collaboration, and consensus-building are way
overrated," Rhee once said. D.C. voters didn't agree. 33

Lacking the kind of Mayoral control that Fenty used to install Rhee,
Booker has entered into a fragile alliance with a volatile Republican
Governor, complicating relations with both NJ Democrats and the Newark
electorate. He has strong opposition on the city council and faces a
deepening municipal fiscal crisis that will only grow worse under
Christie. To drive local school policy into unchartered territory, (pun
intended) Booker needs a stronger base than a budget-cutting Governor and
rich out-of-town friends. 34

On Nov. 1, with the help of DFER's newly formed NJ chapter and $1 million
in private funds, Booker launched the Partnership for Education in Newark
designed to mobilize local support for his education plans. A two-month
campaign of "relentless outreach," including community meetings and
door-to-door canvassing is supposed to lead to a set of reform
recommendations in January. But longtime local activists are skeptical and
have started their own Coalition for Effective Newark Public Schools to
press for things they have been fighting for for years: adequate
resources, student-centered curriculum, better-prepared teachers,
partnerships with parents, and "new standards of accountability and new
practices to assure fairness for educators, and success for all children".
35 Many believe the plans for the Facebook millions have already been
drawn up behind closed doors. "The only question," said one former member
of the local advisory board, "is how much more privatization will go on".

The Uses of "Failure"

Using the failures of public education in high-poverty urban communities
as an opening for a broader policy of disinvestment and privatization has
become a key link in the market reformers campaign.

Using the failures of public education in high-poverty urban communities
as an opening for a broader policy of disinvestment and privatization has
become a key link in the market reformers campaign. Moreover, the
narrative of public education as a failing system has been strengthened in
recent years by shifting national policies away from the federal
government's historic role as a promoter of access and equity in public
education through support for things like integration, Title I funding for
high-poverty schools, and services for students with special needs, to a
very different and less equitable set of mandates promoting high-stakes
testing, the closing or "reconstituting" of schools, and the distribution
of federal funds through competitive grants to "winners" at the expense of
"losers". These policies, embodied in No Child Left Behind and Race to the
Top, have helped to erode the common ground a universal system of
democratic public education needs to survive.

As Christie himself has said, "This is an incredibly special moment in
American history, where you have Republicans in New Jersey agreeing with a
Democratic president on how to get reform". 36

If public education is in crisis today, however, it is not because of
generalized failure. In some respects it's the nation's most successful
democratic institution and has done far more to reduce inequality and
offer hope and opportunity than the country's financial, economic,
political and media institutions.

But its Achilles' heel - which in fact is the Achilles' heel of the whole
society -  is acute racial and class inequality. And while this
inequality once spurred a clarion call to expand government and public
sector programs to address it, today a massively well-financed set of
campaigns, groups, and projects is driving an agenda that flies the banner
of reform but promotes proposals that are likely to do for education what
market reform has done for health care, housing, and employment: produce
fabulous profits for a few and unequal access for the many. Waiting for
"Superman" is not only blind to this agenda, it presents some of its key
architects as heroes.


1 See Time magazine, Joe Clark, 2/1/88,,16641,19880201,00.html and Michelle
Rhee, 12/8/08,,16641,20081208,00.html

2 Bursting the Dam: Why the Next 24 Months Are Critical for Education
Reform Politics,

3 N.J. education experts worry over latest brand of school reform, Robert
Braun, Star Ledger,

4 Arne Duncan.s .Rosa Parks Moment., Jim Horn, Schools Matter

5 Dana Goldstein, The Democratic Education Divide, American Prospect,
also see .Booker Seeks Vouchers., Sarah Garland, 2/20/07. and .Liberal Love
for Right Wing Corey Booker. by Margaret Kimberly, Black Commentator,

6 Ex-education chief says Christie was focused on battle with NJEA in Race
to the Top application, The Star Ledger, 7/10/10,

7 Gov. Chris Christie.s budget cuts add to Newark.s economic hardships,
Star Ledger,
and Friending Schools in Newark, NJ Policy Perspective, 10/4/10

8 How Will Newark Turn Zuckerberg.s $100 Million Worth Of Facebook Shares
Into Cash? Forbes,
& The $100 million gift, Paul Tractenberg North

9 All views expressed in this article are the author.s and do not reflect
positions of the Education Law Center.

10 Facebook-Driven Newark Overhaul Lurches Forward, Catherine Gewertz,
Education Week,

11 I.m Coming: Governor Christie on Education Reform,

12 Elysian serves 22% free/reduced lunch students compared to 69% in its
host district, Hoboken. It has 25% Hispanic students, 11% African American
students and 57% white students compared to district populations of 59%
Hispanic, 15% African American and 22% white. Education Law Center, Oct.

13 N.J. Gov. Christie pushes for more charter schools,

14 Gov. Christie seeks private companies to operate charter schools, Star
& Lauded Harlem Schools Have Their Own Problems Sharon Otterman 10/12/10.
New York

15 Linda Darling-Hammond National Journal Expert Blogs,


17 Abbott Pre-K Hailed As National Model,
& Diplomas Count, Education Week, June 2010

18 Fulfilling the Promise of Abbott, David Sciarra, Star Ledger,
and Lessons From New Jersey, Gordon MacInness, American Prospect, 6/13/10

19 Education commissioner Schundler dismisses U.S. test ranking N.J. at
the top in reading, math. Star Ledger, 5/10/10

20 Christie says charter schools have friend in N.J. Statehouse, NJ

21 Governor Christie.s Ultimate Test, Wall Street Journal,

22 Wall Street Journal, 10/22/10

23 Bursting the Dam,

24 Three Candles for DFER, 6/8/10 See also Ken Libby.s
excellent DFER Watch

25 Flypaper, Thomas B. Fordham Institute blog post,

26 The Turnaround Fallacy, Andy Smarick, Education Next, Winter, 2010

27 Wave of the Future: Why charter schools should replace failing urban
schools, Andy Smarick, Education Next, Winter, 2008,

28 Smarick, Wave of the Future

29 Report shows fourth-grade students in N.J. public, charter schools have
same passing rates, Star Ledger, 11/10/10,

30 Learning from Newark.s Best Schools, Gordon MacInness, NJ Spotlight,
10/19/10, & data charts
from Education Law Center

31 Newark educators release plan to turn around low-performing schools
Star Ledger,

32 Michelle Rhee.s Testing Legacy: An Open Question, Washington Post,
Re Klein seeStandards Raised, More Students Fail Tests, New York Times,

33 Michelle Rhee.s Greatest Hits, Washington Post, 10/14/10

34 Booker and Christie jointly agreed to dismiss the current
state-appointed Newark Superintendent, Clifford Janey, who ironically was
fired by Fenty several years ago as DC schools chief so he could install
Rhee. Oprah suggested that Rhee be hired to run Newark schools. Christie
has offered her the job of state Education Commissioner. As of Dec.1, she
had not accepted

35 Draft platform, Coalition for Effective Newark Public Schools

36 New Jersey Education Reforms Unveiled, Star Ledger,

Stan Karp (stan [at] ) is a Rethinking Schools editor.


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