Categories: COVID-19NewarkOpinion

Don’t Worry Newark, Nothing Has Changed…. And I Sure Ain’t Done!

As many of you may remember, I started this blog for really one reason — like so many other Newark parents during COVID, I could not sleep at night.

And let’s face it: what started as a needed personal platform for me to vent has grown into so much more.

We’ve written dozens of posts that have created lots of buzz. But what also happened was far more people were watching what we were talking about and saw the value of my parent-first perspective.

That’s why I’m proud to announce the re-launch of our blog under the new name of “Newark Truth” and as a partnership with the national education activist group brightbeam. Brightbeam and its CEO Chris Stewart (aka Citizen Stewart) have been champions for the same things we’ve talked about on this blog: the importance of transparency and truth in education, the vital role that parent choice plays in cities like Newark, and the need to look at everything with a racial justice lens. The brightbeam network supports activists like me all over the country and we’re happy someone noticed and offered their support in this next phase of the bog.

For the many who know me personally, you can understand how excited I am about this blog that we have created. Being an activist is in my blood. As Newarkers, activism is in all our blood. Our City’s history is based on activism. And being an activist means sharing your truth, using your words and actions to protest, never accepting the status quo – and if need be, even upsetting a few people, which I have certainly done.

I have never run away from being an activist, and I have never sold out.

And I promise, even with the new blog name and renovation, I promise nothing is going to change.

With that promise in mind, I wanted to pose a simple question – how are our children?

Seriously! School is starting! What is the plan?

Now get this -–last month the U.S. Department of Education announced the approval of New Jersey’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief.

Let me tell you what that means -– that means $2.76 billion will be coming to New Jersey public schools with a total of $266 million for Newark.  There is a plan for all to see, and you can download the document here.

Does anyone know how the Newark school district plans to spend this money?

NOPE, WE DON’T!

Where’s our spending plan? The state has one. Why not us?

Well, it’s time we find out. Right?!

It’s hard to find a city hit harder than Newark during COVID.

For example, as our kids start this new school year – only 9% of Newark students in grades 2-8 met state expectations in math, and 11% of students met expectations in reading.

So 90 percent of our kids in Newark are behind academically and unable to do the basics!

90 PERCENT!!!

If it weren’t for recent press reports, we never would know how our school children are doing. They actually wanted to lock up this information, throw away the key, and not let parents know the challenges our children face this new school year.

Just like Donald Trump lied to all of us about COVID, we were lied to about our kids. This gets me very frustrated.

But worse than not having information we can trust and leaders who won’t be straight with us is a Superintendent who has no vision in a time of crisis.

And the district has not provided any kind of full accounting of how these new Newark school dollars will be spent!

Where is Newark putting all this money? Who will benefit?

If we can’t trust them to share basic data about our kids, how can we trust them to spend this money?

Before COVID, Newark parents knew our district schools were in dire state of disrepair, with some of our public school buildings dating back even to the Civil War. We already knew that our public schools were serving poisonous water to our kids.

However, like everything else, COVID has only shined a brighter light on our problems.

We need much more from our schools.

And, Roger Leon, you can start by letting us know what you are doing with all of this new federal money.

Is all this money paying for parties at Robert Treat Hotel? We need to know!

We hope and pray these funds will be going to our kids….but all we have no way of knowing.

This blog will always focus on finding the truth.

And perhaps once the district provides some, maybe we can all get a well-deserved good night’s sleep.

I will leave you with this thought once again –

90 PERCENT OF OUR KIDS (Including my children) IN NEWARK PUBLIC SCHOOLS CAN’T READ OR DO MATH ON THE LEVEL THAT THEY SHOULD DUE TO THIS GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND WE MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!!!!

Oscar James

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