New Report Analyzes National and NJ-specific Achievement GapsApril 1, 2014
New WHYY Column: Can NJ Circumvent Superintendent Salary Caps?April 3, 2014
Steve Fulop, mayor of Jersey City and gubernatorial hopeful, endorsed Ras Baraka for mayor of Newark back in February but, according to today’s PolitickerNJ, Fulop’s education platform aligns far more closely with Baraka’s opponent, Shavar Jeffries.
Here’s Fulop on the scourge of charter schools:
“In Jersey City, we have some terrific charter schools, and we have some mediocre charter schools. The traditional public schools, it’s the same. But you do have to be open-minded and try different things, and I think Ras understands that, and has the ability to be the better messenger than anybody else,” Fulop added. “President Obama and [U.S. Secretary of Education] Arne Duncan, both progressive Democrats, understand the importance of charter schools. Many mayors across the country understand the importance of charter schools. Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that charter schools are not going anywhere. They’re here to stay.
In other words, Fulop supports the expansion of charter schools and recognizes their growing role in NJ’s educational landscape.
Yet last week Baraka ran his first TV ad that clashes with Fulop’s educational assertions. Here’s the transcript of the ad:
“They shut down our schools. Shut out our voices. Turned public schools into private profit factories. And they’re all connected to Shavar Jeffries. The same interests backing Chris Christie… backing Christie’s handpicked school superintendent… the same Wall Street hedge fund managers making money of our schools – they all support Jeffries. Which means he’s not with us. With Newark’s future on the line, Shavar Jeffries stands with the wrong people. Shavar Jeffries isn’t for us.”
What gives? If Fulop is an education reformer who identifies with President Obama and Arne Duncan, why is he endorsing Baraka?
Let’s go back to the TV ad. It wasn’t paid for by by Baraka’s campaign, but with funds from a political organization called the Working Families Party. WFP counts among its affiliates the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and other assorted labor unions like CWA and SEIU.
Fulop needs the unions more than he needs Jeffries’ amity, especially if he’s going to go up against Senate President Steve Sweeney in 2016 in the gubernatorial race. Unions aren’t very happy with Sweeney anyway –after all, he worked with Christie to craft the pension benefits and health care reform bill that requires public workers to chip into premium costs – so Fulop is a natural, especially if he’s aligns himself with WFP. Who said education should be a litmus test for support anyway? Fulop told PolitickerNJ, “Ras and I both don’t support the use of school vouchers, so there is some overlap between us. But again, it’s not just about the education issue, or crime, or employment, or anything else.”
In a bit of serendipity, WFP made headlines in Connecticut when it endorsed a school board candidate named Sauda Baraka. I don’t know if there’s any relation. She won through WFP’s largesse, building a platform based on her dislike of the “privatization” of public schools and “corporate-style reform,” the memes of the anti-reform movement.
In response to the endorsement, Jeffries questioned “the true motives of the mayor of Jersey City’s endorsement of my opponent, [South Ward] Councilman Baraka, which is to take Newark backward, and not forward.” He may be on to something.