The State of New Jersey’s Public Schools

November 05, 2015 at 6:24 pm

New Jersey Capitol Report Anchor Steve Adubato joins Rafael Pi Roman to discuss New Jersey’s urban public schools and the politics of education in the Newark public school system.

The 1947 New Jersey constitution dictates that the state has a legal and constitutional responsibility to take over schools that are failing students, and New Jersey enacted the nation’s first state-takeover law in 1987. The state took over the public schools in Jersey City in 1989; in Paterson in 1991; and in Newark in 1995.

In 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and education Commissioner Christopher Cerf announced a move to take over the Camden public schools, bringing the total number of New Jersey state-controlled school districts to four.

Today, the debate over who should control New Jersey’s failing schools wages on.

“When you have 611 school districts, that means you have so many people getting elected, so many power brokers that are involved in getting people elected,” says Adubato. “So in Newark or in Jersey City or Newark or Patterson, those players are involved with state politics. They’re involved with state legislators. So it’s impossible for these communities to not be political.”

But are the state takeovers having a positive impact on student learning? Adubato reports that by most accounts, the results have been mixed at best, with problems persisting to varying degrees in each district.

“There’s no way the state can say they’ve dramatically improved any one of these four urban school districts to the point where they’re getting out because things are so much better,” says Adubato.

In Jersey City and Newark, local school systems are moving to reclaim control. In October, a New Jersey Board of Education assessment determined that Jersey City is ready to regain full control of its school system. In a congratulatory statement, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka also said “We hope that in 2016, like Jersey City, we will be able to celebrate the return of local control of Newark Public Schools to the citizens of Newark.”


RELATED: Newark Mayor, Ras J. Baraka, joins Steve Adubato on a special half-hour edition of New Jersey Capitol Report to discuss the triumphs and challenges that face New Jersey’s largest city.