NEWARKERS – Get to Know Today’s ELC!

It is Not Your Grandparents Education Law Center!

A few weeks ago, The Newark Report highlighted an interesting end of the week “information dump” by Mayor Baraka to the Newark City Council.

During this specific Friday afternoon – as most of Newark was getting ready for the weekend – Mayor Baraka spoke in front of his Chief Education Officer, select staff, and members of the City Council to defend his controversial decision to advocate the halt of public charter schools in Newark.

We were tipped by a number of City Hall employees of the speech – and as far as we could tell no media actually covered it.

Our initial post on the subject focused on the timing of this speech. Like his sneaky Christmas letter to Commissioner Hespe, we thought the timing was a bit suspect.

The Mayor could have invited a journalist to interview him about this issue. The information the Mayor provided only to City Hall could have been analyzed beforehand. The Mayor could have given the speech in a forum where all Newarkers could have asked questions. The Mayor could have written a public editorial for everyone to review, rather than a small speech on a Friday afternoon. The Mayor could have even mentioned this issue at one of his many “Town Halls” that he has been publicizing…the list goes on.

But now about ten days later, as we have said before…the hits keep coming…

During this speech, the Mayor provided a “report” to back his claims against Newark’s public charter schools

The Newark Report has learned that this document was not a City Hall analysis or a report by his Chief Education Officer. Instead, the Mayor dusted off a three-month-old document from the New Jersey’s Education Law Center (ELC) and distributed it to City Council.

As you can see in this video, the Mayor used the findings from the ELC to provide credibility to his claims against charters.

But what Newarkers need to understand is that the ELC is hardly a credible organization anymore.

Now let’s be clear, there are many great non-partisan, independent-based institutions in New Jersey. Organizations who do provide valuable, fact-based information for parents – and Mayors – so informed opinions can be created and shared.

However, the ELC is not one of these organizations. Hardly…

How can we say this?

Easy. Let us look at the facts….

  1.  The ELC is funded by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).
  2. The NJEA is New Jersey’s main teachers union. 
  3. THE NJEA IS SPENDING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, YES MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, AGAINST PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS THROUGHOUT NEW JERSEY.

In case you are unaware of the NJEA, it brings in about $125 million in revenues a year – the great majority of which comes from the union dues of our district school teachers.

The NJEA is the same union that spent in one year – $1 million thru its Political Action Committee (PAC) to support candidates willing to wage war on parents whose children attend New Jersey’s public charter schools.

The NJEA is the same union that spent in one year – another $8.5 million through its special SuperPACs to support that war against New Jersey’s parents whose children attend public charter schools.

The NJEA is also the same union that in one year – was billed over $1.5 million by their high priced lawyers at Zazzali, Fagella, Nowak, Kleinbaum & Friedman.

AND….Based on their last public 990 form that I could find, which is a public document that details spending expenditures for tax-exempt organizations like the NJEA…

The NJEA – the Teacher’s Union – contributed over $500,000 to the Education Law Center (ELC).

BOOM!

So let us review…

This ELC organization….

The organization that Mayor Baraka kept touting in his Friday afternoon anti-charter speech to City Council…

The organization that seems to be the support mechanism for Mayor Baraka’s own war against charters…

Is a $hill organization for the New Jersey Education Association. The NJEA pays the bills of the ELC…all $500,000 of them!

Now let’s leave the money alone for a second and dig a bit deeper – I promise, we will come back to the money….

So let us assume the best…lets assume for a second that the $500,000 a year the NJEA gives to the ELC is just out of the goodness of their heart. Lets assume that the ELC is actually not an organized effort to create a phony policy organization that blindly supports NJEA policies….

Unfortunately, if you assume the best, but look deeper – you just see even more of the same concerns…

Take a look at the ELC Board and their Staff for yourself.

Personally, I got all I needed as soon as I saw that Vincent Giordano is on the ELC’s Board of Trustees.

ELC Trustee Giordano, is the Former Executive Director New Jersey Education Association…

According to the NJEA’s 2013 990 Forum…. Mr. Giordano served as a “Past Executive Director” for the NJEA he made $899,062 for an annual salary.

I do not know what “Past” means in his NJEA title, but I think it is fair to assume that since Edward Richardson, was making $703,927 as the “Executive Director” of the NJEA that year, Mr. Giordano seemed to be drawing significant checks as a former employee.

On an unrelated point, I hope every hardworking district teacher in Newark looks at the salaries of their NJEA executive staff – it is their unions dues paying their salaries. I am curious if they know how many millionaires they fund?

So getting back to business…we now know that the ELC is funded by the NJEA….

We now know there are former staffers of the NJEA sitting on the ELC’s Board of Trustees….

We also know that there are staff members of the ELC who have strong, long-held biases against public charters schools….

Yet, Mayor Baraka is using the writings of this organization as the basis of his education agenda.

But let us be clear, yet again…

The issue is not that the ELC is anti-charter.

It is certainly within the ELC’s right to be bought off by the $125 million in annual revenues by the NJEA.

It’s also within the ELC’s right to spend NJEA dollars drafting documents that represent NJEA’s very specific agenda against public charter schools.

And it is certainly within the ELC’s right to stack their Board of Trustees and Staff with people who have spent a lifetime fighting against public charter schools.

$125 million in annual revenues is a great deal of money and $8.5 million in political contributions is also a lot. Perhaps Mayor Baraka is looking to get some of the campaign cash for his next election – and you know what, that is ok if that is where his priorities are.

But what is not ok is the idea that Mayor Baraka is using this compromised organization to support his extreme beliefs against charters.

It is an utter joke that the Mayor would go to the floor of the City Council Chambers and use the NJEA’s ELC as the expert testimony against Newark parents.

Newarkers… Question the motivations behind our elected officials.

Get to know the ELC. Get to know the NJEA.

I bet we will hear a lot more of these two organizations either from Mayor Baraka himself or in his election filings. So it is time we all get educated.

Most of all do not be influenced or scared by these big-spending interest groups!

Yes, the NJEA puts over $500,000 a year to build up the Education Law Center – so it can disrupt Newark’s determination for public school choice.

Yes, the NJEA raises over $125 million from union dues a year – that helps wage a huge campaign to disrupt Newark’s determination for public school choice.

Yes, the NJEA has the money to hire high-priced lawyers – to help disrupt Newark’s determination for public school choice.

Yes, the NJEA can afford to pay a series of operatives huge, high six figure salaries to disrupt Newark’s determination for public school choice.

But….and this is a big but….

What Newarkers have shown time and time again is that our voice as a community will always be stronger than any special interest!

The ELC maybe a tool of the NJEA…and perhaps Mayor Baraka is too…but don’t give up!