People of Newark Defend Public Schools

By David Hungerford

Newark, NJ – Community forces here, led by the United Front to Defend Public Education (UFDPE) are opposing funding cutbacks and the privatization of public schools. There have been marches and rallies, speakers at public forums and literature distribution to oppose the cutbacks.

Incoming Governor Christopher Christie announced in March, as his first action in office, a program of budget cuts that sacrifice the people’s needs to the capitalists’ economic crisis. In particular, state aid to local schools is planned to be cut by $820million.

A rally on the theme of “Save Our Schools” was held at a busy intersection on April 14. It was attended by students, teachers and community activists. The crowd chanted “No education, no peace,” “Christie says cut back, we say fight back.” Motorists blew their horns and raised clenched fists in support. Neighborhood residents and passersby were in complete support. The Newark community is aware and angry about threats of charter schools, vouchers and budget cutbacks.

In Newark there are plans to bust the Cafeteria Workers’ Union and completely privatize school food services. As many as 200 teachers, 60 school aides and the bulk of substance abuse coordinators are meant to be cut. As distractions, the New Jersey Department of Education is offering Special Instructional Grants to a few selected schools and projecting a ‘plan’ to raise high school graduation requirements from 110 to 130 credits over four years. How the schools are to do more with less money is not explained.

UFDPE organizer Leah Owens calls the Special Instructional Grants money, “peanuts compared to what is due this district through the state’s school funding formula.” She adds, “The purpose of these [community] actions is to bring attention to the problems and allow us to see we really are in the same boat.”

Newark Teachers’ Association President Annette Alston says, “Millionaires are getting bonuses and breaks and teachers are getting pay cuts. Stop saying freeze. If teachers now have to pay 1.5% of their salary into the health benefit pot and they are asking us to take a freeze on top of that it amounts to a pay cut, not a freeze. We’ve got a big bully holding the position of governor. Bullies must be stood up to or they will continue to bully you.”

Source: Fight Back! News


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