Remember December 14, 2015 – A Date of Great Importance to New Jersey’s Education Debate

Good luck Mr. Abeigon, Mr. Braun and Ms. Rubin

One month ago, this week, a groundbreaking event quietly occurred at the State Capital in Trenton.

Parents from across New Jersey, mainly from cities like Camden, Jersey City and Newark, boarded buses and visited members of the State Legislature to share their personal experiences as parents.

In the days leading up to this Trenton visit, Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon, sent a hastily written letter to Commissioner Hespe, mistakenly claiming that children would be visiting Trenton, not parents. No students arrived in Trenton on that day, only their parents.

Mr. Abeigon’s good buddy and sponsor, Bob Braun, took to his blog attacking an African-American mother of five who wrote a column in NJ.com explaining why she was participating in the visit to Trenton

After the parent visit, another of Abeigon’s buddies, Julia Sass Rubin, who happens to own a million dollar home in Princeton and once sent her children to charter schools, posted a comment on PolitckerNJ that claimed that the hundred of so African American parents who visited Trenton that day were on “the payroll.”

In the end, as Newarker and co-organizer Oscar James, Jr. explained in his column published in PolickerNJ, the event simply brought parents together with elected officials.

But now, after a month’s distance from the event, a much deeper purpose to the parent’s visit can be seen.

The respect, poise and unity the parents from throughout the State showed in Trenton that day was in stark contrast to the stunts of those who want to defend the status quo at all cost.

The Trenton visit on 12/14 showed the State a new era in parent involvement, engagement and empowerment.

Had you attended past Newark SAB meetings you would have witnessed Mr. Abeigon and his friends controlling the education debate – yelling and creating an atmosphere of hostility.

While the negative tactics do get headlines, what has changed in Newark is that education is now no longer a one sided debate. As we saw in Trenton, as we now see in the SAB and City Hall meetings, Newark parents are emerging and engaging.

Newark parents not only want continued public school options for their children, but they want to take care of their own and ensure all Newark parents are provided with the same opportunity.

For someone like Julia Sass Rubin, who has absolutely no understanding of a city like Newark, to have the audacity to proclaim that an African American parent concerned for their child’s education must be getting paid is really disgusting. I would guess Ms. Rubin is worried that parents in the cities of our state are actually breaking their chains and sharing their voice. But beyond these insensitive comments, let’s not forget, three years ago Hands Off Our Future Collective, a statewide parent movement with the mission to benefit schools throughout New Jersey began. Now, we see the results of this movement – and careless assumptions by Rubin will no longer go unchecked.

It’s a long drive from Princeton, so I am going to guess Ms. Rubin has never actually visited the homes of any actual Newark parents, so let me cut to the chase – the parents she chooses to minimize are just doing what they think is best for their kids. Why shouldn’t they have a voice? And doesn’t it say something about Ms. Rubin that she would question the motives of these parents?

To be more direct – specifically to folks like her and others who choose to passive aggressively attack the parents of Newark, the Newark Report wants to be even more clear:

-When Mr. Braun chooses to use his blog to single out an African American mother of five – that is an attack.

– When Ms. Rubin slyly suggests that a parent’s activism is based solely on a quid pro quo of payment – that is an attack.

– When Mr. Abeigon deliberately pushes misinformation about an event that involves Newark parents – that is an attack.

While it is fair to say that the parents who went to Trenton do not necessarily represent every parent in the State, it is a mistake to marginalize or attack them. And from my many private conversations over the last month, it was a mistake noted by the media, elected officials and community leaders across the state.

The reason December 14th in Trenton was so important is that parents did not attack back – they simply engaged.

Like Martin Luther King, who we celebrate this weekend, parents took a different approach than the Brauns, Rubins and Abeigons. They shared their personal experiences with nearly 40 state legislators about the education they want – and dare I say demand – for their children.

Parents spoke with representatives about why they made the choice to send their children to public charter schools. They detailed the benefits this type of education is providing their families and how the quality of this education is much more aligned with the dreams and hopes they hold for the future of their children; better preparing them for the world they will one day lead.

Those attending Trenton on the 12/24 took part in a joint breakfast and then were immersed in legislative committee meetings and groups throughout the day. For many of those attending, it was the first time they had the opportunity to witness the behind-the-scene workings of our amazing state in action.

This new way of doing things is important. Many parents in New Jersey have grown accustomed to a one-sided debate, with outsiders like Mr. Abeigon, Mr. Braun, and Ms. Rubin, flexing their muscles while actual parents watch from the sidelines—those days are over!

The world might not have necessarily changed on December 14th, but a needed shift has since occurred. In the past, Newark parents watched – as others yelled. Well, Newark’s parents are not just watching anymore. To Abeigons, Brauns and Rubins – good luck!