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Campbell Brown’s PEJ Files Another Lawsuit– Now in New Jersey

November 2, 2016

On November 01, 2016, Campbell Brown’s Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ) filed its third lawsuit in pursuit of teacher tenure laws, this time in New Jersey.

PEJ’s first suit continues to sit in the New York courts, and its second lawsuit was just dismissed in Minnesota.

In short, PEJ’s third lawsuit tries to paint New Jersey’s “last in, first out” (LIFO) teacher tenure policy as unconstitutional based on the New Jersey constitution’s education terminology of the legislature’s charge to provide “for the maintenance and support of a through and efficient system of free public schools for all children of the state.”

However, it seems that the lawsuit does not make its case; even though the suit takes issue with the LIFO policy for not considering the results of teacher evaluation when reductions in force are in order, the legislature’s LIFO policy could still be regarded in court as “thorough and efficient.”

The PEJ suit argues that Newark tries to dodge the legislature’s LIFO reduction-in-force requirement by not laying off teachers rated ineffective and instead putting such teachers into a pool of employees that take other jobs (including clerical and paraprofessional positions). The suit continues by noting that such a practice is expensive and still requires Newark schools to rehire such “ineffective” teachers when positions open up as opposed to being able to hire new, out-of-district, “effective” teachers instead.

Though the lawsuit touches on the declining enrollment in Newark’s traditional public schools, it does not discuss a major cause: Newark is a state-run district, and as such, the state (not parents) has the authority to authorize new charter schools– and with the opening of more charters, more state funding exits Newark’s traditional public schools.

Newark appealed to the state to try to make layoffs using teacher evaluation ratings as the principal criteria; however, such would introduce the convenience of laying off teachers with low ratings and skirting due process even as the teacher evaluation process itself is arguably imprecise.

Thus, Newark is left to try to stay afloat, and rather than reduce force, it resorts to “educators without placement” (EWP). Let’s be clear, though: The state is working against its own interest by opening more charter schools and zapping funding that would otherwise stay with state-run Newark schools.

The PEJ suit also maintains

these districts, of which Newark is one, [have] this fundamental right to a thorough and efficient education [that] requires the State to provide an education that ‘exceeds that needed by students in more affluent districts,” according to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Indeed, New Jersey has a 35-year, litigious saga over adequately funding its urban schools via the Abbott lawsuits (Read the history here). It seems that the State of New Jersey has tried its hardest to not adequately fund the School Funding reform Act (SFRA). However, adequately funding Newark would make any need for reduction in force moot and further reduce the attractiveness of state-approved charter schools as a viable escape from increasingly-underfunded Newark.

The PEJ lawsuit tries to separate funding from teacher effectiveness:

Ensuring adequate funding to these districts is essential, but funding alone is not sufficient to provide a thorough and efficient education to these students. They need effective teachers.

However, the reality is that an “effective” teacher can indeed “become ineffective” if, for example, he or she has fewer resources available due to budget cuts, or has increased class sizes as a result.

I know that my own effectiveness in the classroom would be reduced if I lacked teaching materials or if my classes were each increased by even a few students who required more of my individualized attention.

What PEJ wants in its suit is for New Jersey’s LIFO- reduction-in-force law to not apply to districts like Newark. According to PEJ, reductions in force should happen to those rated ineffective by a teacher rating system that PEJ admits is “updated from time to time”– which means that the rating of “effective” is not static, and it is possible under one “update” to be “effective” and under another, to be “ineffective.”

However, based on the results of another PEJ lawsuit on teacher tenure in Minnesota, it seems that the New Jersey court could tell PEJ that the decision to ditch LIFO in favor of ratings-based reduction-in-force policy is a legislative decision, not a judicial one.

The PEJ argument for unfairness to Newark students for so many “ineffective” teachers being concentrated there bypasses the reality that teachers decide where they teach, not the legislature and not the courts. Furthermore, teachers rated “ineffective” do not get to keep their jobs forever, just for two years if the teacher does not receive an improved rating.

Of course, there is also the question of how many “effective” teachers in Newark somehow “become ineffective” during their time in Newark– and close examination of why that happens.

But PEJ isn’t asking for this examination, nor is it asking the Mercer County Superior Court to require the State of New Jersey to adequately fund Newark schools despite the state’s decision to open the very charters that make Newark schools fiscally unsound.

That’s just not Campbell Brown’s style. She prefers to go after the teachers.

Too many weaknesses in this PEJ brief for me to believe this one will fly.

And when it goes south, PEJ will likely file its next lets-drum-up-some locals-to-put-a-face-on-our-Astroturf lawsuit in yet another state.



Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Abigail Shure permalink

    I am an EWPS in Newark and you nailed it Mercedes. You neglected to mention, however, that the Newark Public Schools has lost a fair number of the tenure charge arbitration cases.

  2. Jack Covey permalink

    The issue of funding was one of the Perry Mason moments during Campbell’s interview with Stephen Colbert. (the other being when Colbert asked about who’s funding her group, and she ran from the question, claiming that if she revealed them, they would be targeted… gimme a break)

    Colbert lures her into a trap by asking if what she and her corporate ed. reform allies is all about is “equal education for all.” She agrees that it is, and then Colbert seizes the moment and unloads on her:
    ( 03:56 – )
    STEPHEN COLBERT: “Aren’t you opening a can of worms there, because if YOU SAY that kids are entitled to ‘equal education.’ If THAT’S your argument, doesn’t that mean eventually you’re gonna say that EVERY child in the state of New York should have the SAME amount of money spend on their education? Rich community, poor community — pool it all in, split it all up among Bobby, Susie, and Billy EVERYWHERE, because the argument is ‘Everyone gets the same opportunity.’ ”

    CAMPBELL BROWN “But you’re suggesting that it’s all about the money.”

    STEPHEN COLBERT: “You’re suggesting that it’s about equality, and money is one of the equations in equality, or have I just schooled you?”


    Campbell then references past lawsuits to bring greater funding to poor communities, and does so with seeming approval. The most prominent and successful of these is New Jersey’s Abbott lawsuit. The truth, however, is that all of Campbell’s corporate ed. reform allies are unanimous in opposing such lawsuits for more funding to poor communities. In fact, Chris Christie, one of her closest buds, has latgely been throwing everything he has towards the dismantling of the funding to poor districts that the Abbott lawsuit has brought to new Jersey for the last three decades.

    She also references how poor communities have “the least effective teachers” — as measured by standardized test scores .. a dubious measure, at best. As Mercedes points out above, that evidence of lower test scores as an indicator that a teachers is “less effective” is heavily determined by … wait for it … how much FUNDING that the teacher receives, and that his school / district receives, as that amount of funding determines class size, resources, etc. that the teacher has to prove his or her effectiveness.

    Colbert didn’t go there, but he could have pointed out that how well a teacher performs is inextricably interwoven with the funding issue. Furthermore, the quality of teachers that are attracted to becoming teachers, and staying in the classroom as they improve is determined by … wait for it… FUNDING, as that determines the teachers’ salary, benefits, etc. … What college student on the fence about choosing or not choosing teaching as a career is not turned off when he hears about declining or stagnating salaries for teachers?

    But no, not to Campbell, it’s all “tenure is evil.” Get rid of tenure or any seniority rights and that will fix everything, as that is the underlying premise underlying all her copycat lawsuits.

    Campbell slips in “I think teachers should be paid more,” but talk is cheap. Her actions contradict this claim. One of the fundamental premises of corporate ed. reform that’s pushed by Campbell and her allies is cutting, cutting, cutting teacher’s salaries in any way possible — removing extra pay for master’s degree, years on the job, professional development attained, etc. Indeed, Campbell Brown is one of the folks in charge of the Success Academy Charter School Chain in New York, City… serving on its board … and, when you factor in NYC’s cost of living, those Success Academy teachers are paid terribly, and are worked longer hours than teachers in traditional public schools … leading to burnout of teachers after two years or slightly more, with entire school staffs being churned out, and replaced regularly.

    Mercedes wrote about the dreadful pay (and also job conditions) that Campbell pays (and provides) her non-union teachers in the Success Academy Charter Chain here:

    MERCEDES SCHEIDER: “I first notice that her teachers and other employees are not paid much when one considers the cost of living in New York. Based on input from 41 SA ‘lead teachers,’ the average salary is $63,000. This salary might initially sound good to someone in my circumstance (a teacher from Louisiana); I have 21 full time years in and hold a Ph.D., and my annual salary is $59,000 (the state stopped my annual step raises in 2012 when I was at 15 full time years, but I have received a little more money since then).

    “However, when one converts that SA $63,000 to its LA cost-of-living equivalent, $63,000 per year to live in Manhattan, NY, is the same as making approximately $29,000 and living in St. Tammany Parish, LA (where I live). Thus, that SA $63,000 in Manhattan is as hard to live on as it would be for me to live on $29,000 in St. Tammany.

    “I live on $59,000 in St. Tammany, LA. In order to experience the same quality of living in Manhattan as I do in St. Tammany, an SA teacher would need to make around $138,000 per year.

    “For the same quality of living in Brooklyn, NY, the SA teacher would need to make $105,000. (Source: CNN Money Cost of Living Calculator.)

    “Two additional points about salary: First, not all SA teachers are ‘lead teachers.’ Those classed as SA “associate teacher” report average salaries of $48,500. Their purchase power gets them as far in Manhattan as approximately $20,000 would get me in St. Tammany. Their purchase power in Brooklyn equals roughly $26,500 in St. Tammany, LA.

    “The second important piece is that SA teachers work much longer hours than I do. My contracted teaching day is 7 hours at school. (Note: Most teachers also bring work home or arrive early or stay late, but they are not required to do so by contract.) My week is 5 days; my year is 190 days. In contrast, SA teachers are literally driven until they burn out. Their average day is 12 hours at school. Moreover, they are expected to be on call after school hours. SA provides each teacher with a Macbook and iPhone, which a number list as a positive feature of the job.

    “However, the purpose behind this seeming benevolence is to assure that SA teachers are equipped with the technological shackles necessary to have them at the school and parent beck and call at all hours.”

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    POLITICO Education Morning has become a shill for The 74 with sponsored content at the beginning and more advertising at the end, daily during the week.

  4. I was stunned to see Campbell brought this case when I read it at Newark public schools have been run into the ground by the state for 25 plus years. Cami Anderson tried every illegal dirty trick she could, at the behest of her puppet masters, to “get rid of” “expensive” teachers, and bring in TFA. Are the reformers not happy with there 4 year tenure law? Tenure REALLY means – when the budgets are made, IF teachers have to be let go due to lessened student ratios, you get to stay. If you don’t have tenure, you’re on the chopping block. So Campbell and her behind the scenes hedge fund, charter happy, can’t wait to get their hands on the ROI that all those juicy management/rental contracts bring…….don’t like that the newbie teachers would have to go (read that the cheap teachers, or indeed, the 2 year contracted TFA teachers who won’t stick around anyhow) have to be riffed – and would rather, instead, have tenured, veteran, experienced, “EXPENSIVE” teachers let go. Shame on them.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the NJ Courts would rule this a frivolous “cry wolf” lawsuit? When will Campbell and her ilk be stopped? They have nothing to lose/waste, but time and money. Perhaps these lawsuits are just to further bleed ca$h out of already strapped districts? Christie is a loser of a human being, and a HORRIBLE governor – all of the monies we’ve paid as taxpayers because of him could have been put to our public schools. But no, he’s off visiting GULAN charters–because he must kowtow to his masters.

    I hope Campbell loses quickly, and loses big. She needs more losses to put her out of business.

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