BoE's Leon Gold Tells Salon Mag: “We are creating separate but equal school systems”

Gold speaks: the 2010 BoE Debate.  Leon forced me to sit across from him in the front... forgot why.
Shy and soft-spoken Leon Gold (NOT!... luv ya, big guy) spoke to Salon magazine about the screwing that public schools here in Hoboken are getting at the hands of the state... as more public money gets diverted from public education for the expansion of Charters which do NOT represent the demographic of the school-age population in Hoboken.

No, they don't.

Not sure how shrinking-violet Leon got the interview, but it starts like this:
As charters in the city have exploded in number and size, “they’re fostering white flight, and they’re bankrupting us,” the city’s school board head charged in a Wednesday interview. “We are creating separate but equal school systems,” warned Hoboken Board of Education president Leon Gold. (As Salon has reported, Christie-style ed reform has also sparked controversy in Newark.)
Gold, an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of Engineering & Applied Science, decried the Christie administration’s approval of the HoLa charter school’s bid to add middle school grades, which was opposed by the city’s superintendent. (Gold emphasized that he is speaking in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of the entire Board of Education.) State data shows that 11 percent of HoLa students qualify for reduced-cost or free lunch, whereas 72 percent of their counterparts in Hoboken’s traditional public schools do, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Ninety percent of charter enrollment costs are paid by the Hoboken school district.

Then Leon pussy-foots around, and doesn't get to the point about the segregative effect that the continual expansion of existing Charters is having on the public schools.  
Salon:  In December, Hoboken’s superintendent wrote to Chris Christie’s ed commissioner that he had “sometimes wondered if the Hoboken Public School District is a part of some inevitable plan, because at this point the stage has been set, and many of the strategies” a former assistant commissioner “described for breaking down traditional public schools in favor of charters are working as he predicted.” Is that what you see happening in Hoboken? 

Gold: Exactly. And the recent decision to grant a charter expansion to the charter school HoLa is a perfect example of that …

There are two considerations that the state is supposed to consider: the financial impact on the Hoboken public schools, and the segregatory effect … increasing the segregation.

There’s a chart …  the Hoboken demographic composition of charter schools, versus the whole district, that shows the complete adverse impact …

We’re being hurt by increasing white flight from our school system [to charters], and we’re being strangled financially: Because of the [tax] cap that they put on in Jersey, we can’t even pay the amount of money that we will have to pay out from local tax levy, to support the charter school expansion.

And they are actually starving us; we are going to have to engage in layoffs now because of this … Hoboken is this incredible nexus, where everything wrong about charter schools [and] about funding all comes together …


Well folks, as the mom of a child attending a Hoboken public school and thriving there, I am personally distressed by yet more money being diverted from our public schools, and more 'alternatives' being promoted  by our leaders.

GA may not agree with Leon on all views expressed, but the flight from public schools I have witnessed myself is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We are headed the wrong way.


  1. Thanks for posting this GA. HolA did an amazing job getting their side of the story heard, so it's good to hear from the other side. The situation is that the state pits parents against parents by making school funding a zero-sum game: Hola's win is the public school's loss. As a public school parent it makes me angry, just like you.

  2. It's segregation in the old south sense. African American kids in public schools and kids from other races and ethnicities (Hola HoLa) in charter schools. It's just disgusting.

  3. You can't overlook the fact that charter schools ARE public schools. And they do a fantastic job educating our kids. And because of the way they're funded, they have the normal administrative costs AND pay substantial rent to our landlords. Agreed that there needs to be a better way of allocating tax dollars to schools. But to accuse charter schools (and by association, parents like me) of being segregationists is just so wrong on so many levels.

    1. No one is saying that Charters aren't public schools. But many will agree that Charters act and administer like private schools with PUBLIC monies.

    2. If charter schools were truly public, the budgets would be public, the board meetings would be public and the board members would be elected by the public. Apart from Hoboken Charter, the rest are Magnet schools and please stop pretending that we don't know that HoLa is a private school that was formed using public funds with the veneer of being a charter school at the expense and loss of the much-needed Boys and Girls Club.

      Yes, charter schools pay rent, but the backdoor, illegal, sweetheart deal that HoLa received makes their rent much, much less than the others. Who loses the most? The black and Latino children from the projects and their families who really needed the B&G Club the most.

    3. Where are all those Boys & Girls Club children? Hola administrators took B&G's stove to teach their own children cooking classes. Instead of a warm meal as before, the B&G kids were tossed rice krispy treats or peanut butter crackers. Many are now corraled into the Jubilee Center where they are provided a got meal, but are packed together into one room. Hola set up a separate (but equal) after-school program at the B&G club. They still don't want to blend with "those children" in their own building.

  4. The unintended segregative effect of charters is well known and not unique to Hoboken. Newark is currently embarking on a "universal enrollment" plan with the public and charter schools to try and bring more equity to the charter lottery process for poor and minority students.

  5. If it wasn't about segregation, then there's no reason not to enroll your kids in the public schools. People say they live here because they like the "diversity", yet they keep their kids "away" from that diversity. How can you consider a two regular ed classes in the same grade with only 9 students each to be a "normal administrative" cost"? The charter's budget breakdowns are not made public and subject to scrutiny as the district school is. Mr. Gold spoke the truth in this article.

    1. What is crazy is that these parents placed their kids in a school that had zero merits! How do you place your children in a school so blindly? Ya don't.

      Many spend so much time in deciding where to move and make their decisions based on good schools yet, Hoboken new parents just entered in a lottery of a so-called immersion school blind. Doesn't that sound odd? No.

      The fact is they just didn't want their "kids" going to schools with "those" kids despite the fact that the school has a gym, a play ground, Special Ed services, a cafeteria, a theater, clubs, after care, John Hopkins etc.... But instead lets pay rent, clean toilets, contribute to an annual fund while paying taxes, bus for gym, and fundraise like fiends.

      Now they want to steal from the district kids because they want more. It's all about them and their needs despite the fact that really what Hola originally wanted was to be in the district schools so they wouldn't have to pay rent, would have a gym to use etc... while offering "Spanish". News flash, spanish is offered at the district school. You sure are playing a NASTY dirty game.

  6. Okay people, let's deal with reality. The blame lies with the academics, who never want to take responsibility for anything. If teachers were successfully doing their jobs there would be no need for charter schools. I'm an old gasbag who graduated from a public high school with 50% minorities in a class of 127 which won 144 college scholarships. But in those days the teachers weren't beating the kids to the bus.

    1. From one old gasbag to another- you're wrong. Our public school teachers are wonderful. "Minorities" have nothing to do with it- it's socioeconomics. The flight from public schools, with their wonderful resources and teachers is the problem. The fact that reformers have taken control of public schools and we are not supported by our leaders is incredibly discouraging. Pleas to consider the effect that expanding another Charter would have on the public school kids fell on deaf ears.

      The fact that an already advantaged demographic are poised to tap the public schools AGAIN, and public school parents have to hear how "happy" advantaged parents are their friends won't leave Hoboken now (the only viable alternative to attending schools with our kids) is sickening.

    2. So wrong. As a fellow insider, I'm with GA. All of my child's teachers are so hard-working, highly trained, and doing an amazing job. They come in early, stay on the ball for hours on end, prepare and grade at home. Some of them stay after for tutoring. I couldn't imagine begrudging a teacher the right to leave at the end of their busy day.

  7. You are correct, GA. Gasbag you got it wrong. My child who is in one of the district schools has had excellent teachers. Because you have to "win" a lottery to get in, there is an assumption that it is elite. They don't make their budgets public, have no accountability. If the local taxpayers only knew they were paying for four separate publicly funded school districts with all that administrative overlap. What is the true cost per pupil when there are two classes in the same grade that have only 9 kids each? Could the 18 kids not be put into one class together? And this is a regular ed class. It's a way to get a "private" school environment without paying tuition.

  8. The teachers are successfully doing their jobs, students from HHS go to Wharton, Stevens and a plethora of other fine schools. But unlike most charters, they also serve a large population of students who have tremendous issues to overcome. Look everyone can agree that Hoboken CHarter has great test scores in the k-7 grade levels. Their high school performs similiar and usually much lower than HHS. Now is that saying that Hoboken CHarter is not successfully doing their job?

    And the answer to why the HCS doesn't do well in the HS? I get the same answer every time, well they have a different population of students.

    You really should read the effects of poverty on student learning.

    The averages you see on paper are averages they are swayed by ratios. Large ratios of chilldren with supportive families with skew grades in one direction and the opposite is true as well.

    Students in poverty fair similar in all districts, as the same is true for those of wealth. Deal with the issues of poverty to help those students raise their test scores. In the mean time cutting funding from their districts is certainly not helpful to those students.

  9. The general maximum per meal amount per recipient on Foodstamps is $1.50. This doesn't buy much food and especially more importantly nutritious foods. How can we expect poor students to perform as well as wealthier students, when they barely have enough to eat? In many cases, the best meals they have is the school breakfast and lunch program. Worse, mot only are many poor children not eating well, but they have to contend with day to day issues their parents may have due to shortage of funds, i.e. how to I pay the rent, buy my kids new sneakers, pay the phone bill, etc..? In addition, there is little incentive for many poor families to even get an education, because they realize there is a shortage of "good" jobs. If "white" college students are now becoming the leading job prospectors at minimum wage jobs, how can "black" high school students get any jobs at all.

  10. Reform is split on this subject. But because of our past shared struggles where there was no split, we have built up quite a bit of mutual respect and know that our differences come from the same place as our agreements and need to be accorded some latitude if not embraced.

    So when I read people talking to others contemptuously I seriously doubt they are reform. More likely just piling on during the news cycle then going back to wherever they were before.

    Gold's interview contains both empirical details and emotional language. I note that those who do not wish to discuss the empirical details latch on to the emotional language. Separate but equal. Segregation. Liability. Gold took repeated pains to say the intents were not segregationist but the results were. But as we learned back in the days of the triumph of the shillens, people who want to change the subject from the facts, like 565 paid workers, will always try to find fault with the way the facts are expressed and attempt to make that the subject.

    Suffice it to say, we have a math problem, not a language problem. When we get a quorum of people who want to talk about that, we can have a dialog.

  11. Although I agree with him - on a local level, his message could be divisive. What honey would it take to attract middle-income and affluent families to the public schools? Shaming probably won't work. Academically, the district schools are just as good as any public school. And there are many towns that manage to educate a range of socioeconomic level students successfully, within a single system. IMO it has to be a group (or most of a grade) of like-minded families that agree to do it together. Maybe this is already in the works now that the board is so strong?


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