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This Just In: NJ Sees the Light! Restores Local Control in Newark. I Await Reformers’ Rebuke

September 14, 2017

The headline for David Chen’s Tuesday’s NYTimes article on September 12 doesn’t acknowledge defeat for reformers, but it DOES mean a victory for democracy:

After More Than 20 Years, Newark to Regain Control of Its Schools

While the headline doesn’t acknowledge a defeat for “reformers, this part of Mr. Chen’s does:

…the decision to give authority back to the city is in many ways a recognition that state control is an idea whose time has passed. Around the country, 28 other states enacted similar policies, fueled by a desire to hold districts more accountable.

In handing the control back to the city, the State declared victory by citing the fact that the takeover ended what a judge 20 years ago identified as a situation where”... “nepotism, cronyism and the like” had precipitated “abysmal” student performances and “failure on a very large scale.”

The State ended the “…nepotism, cronyism and the like” but in doing so lined the pockets of many for profit enterprises, experienced horrific deficits, and many unsuccessful attempts to make substantial improvements to performance as measured by test scores, graduation rates, and attendance data. It wasn’t until Ras Baraka took over as mayor three years ago and forged a solid working relationship with the state appointed superintendent, Christopher Cerf, that things started to get better. Mr. Baraka used $10,000,000 of the $100,000,000 donated by Mark Zuckerberg to “finance a network of “community schools,”…to provide health care and social services beyond classroom hours”, an action that increases community engagement and ultimately made the transition away from State control possible.

As Mr. Chen noted in his article, Newark was the second city to get a release from State control. Jersey City preceded them… and their mayor had nothing good to say about the impact of the State:

But (Jersey City mayor) Mr. Fulop gives little credit to the state. “Those things converging have helped the school system gradually get better; it has nothing to do with the State of New Jersey’s policies,” Mr. Fulop said. “You wouldn’t find anybody who points to state control and says, thankfully the state was here.  

Mr. Baraka, among others, is hopeful that when the transition is complete, the city will have learned its lesson.

“Local control means that you’re in charge now — you can’t cuss out people now unless you’re cussing yourself out,” he said. “Stop thinking about us versus them, because us is the them.”

Democracy prevails over corporatism. Here’s hoping the voters in Newark make certain they elect responsive and responsible board members. If they do, they will continue to thrive.


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