Growing Push in Newark to Retake School Reins

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

For a generation of Newark, N.J. students, every education decision, including choices on curriculum, spending and superintendent, has been made by state officials in Trenton.

That level of state involvement has made the 39,000-student district an attractive laboratory for Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican seen as a national leader on education reform, and for prominent donors, including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who have pledged $148 million to remake this city’s failing schools.

But the influx of money, and the attendant national spotlight, has galvanized a growing movement of parents, educators and elected officials who want the schools returned to local control 16 years after they were taken over amid low test scores, crumbling buildings and charges of mismanagement.

These critics say that the state has unilaterally imposed a controversial agenda — replacing principals, opening new schools, placing charter schools inside district buildings — dreamed up by outsiders and consultants who do not understand the needs of their children, and that there is not enough opportunity for input by parents and community-based advocates.

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