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Newark Teachers’ Union head John Abeigon issued a response to Sunlight’s billboard, one of several around the state that blames the NTU and the NJEA for keeping students out of the classroom and contributing to large-scale learning loss for Newark kids. Unfortunately, Abeigon does not stick to the facts about the matter and attempts to rewrite history.
First the facts. Abeigon claims that Newark public schools have been “open since April 12 offering four days of instruction.” This is simply not true. Newark schools opened on April 12 offering two days a week of in-person learning. It was only two weeks ago that in-person learning was expanded to four days a week. Sunlight applauds the Newark school district for giving students the opportunity to learn four-days-a-week, but why is Abeigon not sticking to the facts?
Perhaps because Abeigon is trying to rewrite history and wants everyone to focus entirely on the present and not the uncomfortable facts of the past. The whole point of the billboard is to blame NTU for “locking [students] out of their classrooms.” And this is precisely what Abeigon and the NTU did back in January.
The district had a plan to reopen on January 25 and had spent $7 million on facilities upgrades in preparation for reopening, an effort that even “impressed the school nurses union.” Yet Abeigon and the NTU fought hard to block the reopening, helping to ensure that Newark students would remain all-remote for another two months. As Abeigon said at the time: “We don’t think it’s safe to reopen. Right now, we’re doing everything in our power to try to stop it.” Abeigon cannot change history. These are the facts in his own words.
In a further attempt to deflect scrutiny from the NTU’s own actions, Abeigon goes on to claim that “the seven largest corporate charter schools in the state … have remained closed.” But this, too, is false. Newark’s largest charter school operator, North Star Academy, started in-person learning on April 7.
Sunlight stands by its billboard. The facts – and even Abeigon’s own words – show that the NTU fought to keep Newark public schools closed, and closed they were for an additional two months of lost student learning. Don’t let Abeigon rewrite history.