By Art Gallagher
During a conference call with the media after taping the Oprah show on Friday Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Governor Chris Christie and facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg each committed themselves to transforming Newark’s school system into and symblol of educational excellence that will become an example for the rest of the country.
Booker declared, “Failure is no longer an option,” for Newark’s school children. He pledged that he was putting everything on the line, including his career, to create a school system based on accountability and results that will give Newark’s children a educational foundation for success.
Christie said that he was committed to each child in Newark receiving a world class education and that the current results of the Newark school system are unacceptable. He said the three men came together,” because of our belief that education is a civil right and our absolute commitment to each other that we are going overcome whatever obstacles get put in our path to be able to provide a better and brighter day for the children for the City of Newark and hopefully by example, for children who are being failed by their school systems across America.”
Zuckerberg said he was interested in shining “a really bright spotlight on Newark, to make it an educational hotspot for education across the nation that people can look to see what is possilble.”
The initial response from New Jersey’s political and educational establishments has been petty and cynical. From Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver to Education Law Center’s David Sciarra to Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grasso to Senator Richard Codey, the defenders of the status quo reveal their self interest and that of their constituencies to continue to profit from a failed system that costs New Jersey residents obscene amounts of money and costs Newark’s children their future.
The Republican establishment is complicit with the defenders of the status quo by their silence. Since Christie’s inauguration in January my inbox has been filled with press releases from Republican leaders voicing their support of each of the Governor’s bold initiatives. Since word of this initiative leaked out last week….nothing.
The biggest obstacle that Booker and Christie will face in transforming Newark’s school system is cynical resignation. Things in Newark have been so bad for so long that we really believe nothing will make a difference. That is why nothing does.
If you live in New Jersey the condidtion of Newark and its school system impacts your life, past, present and future. Suburan bliss may numb the pain, except on the days your property taxes are due.
If Booker, Christie and Zuckerberg fail in their project to transform Newark’s schools, we all fail.