QOD: Bishop Reginald Jackson on School Choice, Legislators’ Indebtedness to NJEA, Teacher Tenure, and the Pretense of School Quality

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As head of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, Bishop Reginald Jackson has been a powerful voice for school reform.. Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger interviewed him before he heads down south to his new post as head of a 100,000-member congregation in Georgia. 

On school choice: 

If you live in Millburn and the public school is not giving your child a good education, they can afford to send their child to a better school. Folks in Orange don’t have that option…the position of the state is, well, if you can’t afford it, too bad. 

I’m surprised there is so much opposition (to charters). When it comes to the education of children, “By any means necessary.” 

Martin Luther King Jr. said that in the next century discrimination will not be based primarily on race, but on economics. And whoever doesn’t have a good education will have no standing. Tragically, that’s where far too many minorities are.

On African-Americans and school choice:

Jackson noted that in urban districts like Newark, families overwhelmingly choose charter schools when given the chance, and would use vouchers if they could. He’s disappointed, he says, that black politicians and suburban blacks are not more supportive. 

“I received a whole lot of criticism from black legislators because of my positions on education. And yet, back at that time, there was not a single African-American legislator who had their own child in the public schools. 

“The problem was for most African-American legislators, they got their funding for the campaigns from the New Jersey Education Association. It bothered me then and it bothers me now that the funding of campaigns was much more important.” 

“The union’s number one priority is not the education of children: It’s the salaries and benefits of the members of the union. And we need to always remember that.” 

“Most people think the toughest issue for me was racial profiling. It was not. On racial profiling there was no division among blacks. But on education, you have a lot of blacks who live in the suburbs; their kids go to good schools and are doing well. So when they see blacks in the inner city, it’s not their fight.”

As long as we’re on the topic of Bishop Jackson’s ed reform beliefs, it’s worth taking a look back at his position on teacher tenure.

From a 2009 Star-Ledger article:

The head of New Jersey’s Black Ministers Council said public school reform begins with revising tenure. 

The Rev. Reginald Jackson said no other profession gives lifetime job security after three years. He said tenured teachers have no incentive to do their best. 

Jackson, pastor of St. Matthew AME Church in Orange, and other black and Latino clergy will be at the Statehouse today to push for public school reforms. 

They said residents have been lulled into believing New Jersey public school children are getting a quality education. 

The group said parents are not notified when their children graduate by passing an easier test, nor are they told the high school proficiency test is really an 8th grade assessment.

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