Newark Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins today announced that she is opposing a resolution to be voted on this weekend by the NAACP that calls for a national moratorium on charter schools.
Chaneyfield Jenkins, who is a member of the NAACP, said a moratorium would be detrimental to children in Newark, where thousands of students are on waiting lists to attend charter schools in the city.
“I respect the NAACP for all that it has done over the years in terms of advancing civil rights,” Chaneyfield Jenkins said. “But on this issue, I disagree. As an African- American elected official, I feel strongly about lending my voice to this discussion.”
Chaneyfield Jenkins has long opposed a moratorium that has previously been proposed in New Jersey. She was one of seven Newark City Council members to vote on a resolution opposing the legislation.
Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins on a recent visit to Uncommon Schools' North Star Academy, a top-performing charter in Newark. Photo credit: Newark Inc file photo.
That measure, sponsored in the previous legislative session by Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan in the Assembly and Sen. Shirley Turner in the Senate, died in committee. A moratorium bill has not been introduced in the current legislative session.
Chaneyfield Jenkins is the only elected official in Newark to speak out against the NAACP moratorium, though other high-profile leaders from Newark and Essex County have signed on to a national letter requesting a meeting with the NAACP before the vote, including the Rev. Ronald Slaughter, the pastor of Saint James AME Church, Shavar Jeffries, who ran for mayor in 2014, Bishop Reginald Jackson, the head of the New Jersey Black Ministers Council and former Newark West Ward Councilman Ron Rice Jr., who now works for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Chaneyfield Jenkins’s voice on the moratorium issue is far more significant than her position as a Newark City Councilwoman would suggest. She is also as an advisor to presumed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy, who happens to serve as a national board member of the NAACP and is expected to be in Cincinnati to vote on the resolution on Saturday.
Murphy has not publicly stated a position on the moratorium. But his vote will be closely watched by charter school advocates as well as the New Jersey Education Association.
The NJEA, which favored the charter school moratorium in New Jersey, recently endorsed Murphy’s bid for governor.
Chaneyfield Jenkins has not spoken to Murphy about the moratorium, but said she is confident that Murphy will be open to hearing all sides of the issue and be willing to engage in a constructive dialogue.
“As a former diplomat, he has the skills to facilitate an honest conversation with parents on this issue so that it is not divisive, but one which supports all children, whether they attend a charter or a traditional district school,” Chaneyfield Jenkins said. “He is aware that he needs to represent all constituents, from the politically powerful to those who feel their voices are not being heard.”
Chaneyfield Jenkins said she believes Murphy will be more sensitive to the issue of education that Gov. Christie, who engaged in open warfare with the teachers’ unions.
“Governor Christie has been a divisive figure on education in our cities,” Chaneyfield Jenkins said. “He has proposed a funding formula that will utterly destroy public education in Newark. I’ve spoken to Phil Murphy about what we need in Newark to educate all of our children. I know he will fully fund public schools at the level necessary to provide a quality education to all of our children.”