|Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) joined by fellow legislators and education advocates gathered on Tuesday for a morning press conference announcing a bill that would eliminate school district takeovers and return full control to municipalities with school districts currently under state management.
“Paterson school district has been under state control for a quarter of a century,” said Wimberly. “A state takeover of school districts is a failed policy that has done more harm than good over the years. With every teacher layoff, and each student struggling to learn in dilapidated schools, state takeover districts are losing the battle to educate New Jersey’s students. We must let go of the takeover method and find a way more supportive to these districts.”
The bill (A-3637) would eliminate the authority of the State Board of Education to place the school district under full or partial state intervention under the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJ QSAC), the state’s system of monitoring school districts. The bill also provides that any school district that is under partial or full state intervention on its effective date will be returned to full local control within one year of that date.
The bill’s sponsors – Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Cleopatra Tucker, L. Grace Spencer and Sheila Oliver – expressed their support of the legislation.
“State takeovers were meant to help schools get back on track through radical change, increased accountability, and affording students better access to programs and services they deserve,” said Assembly Majority Conference Leader Sumter (D-35). “Unfortunately, for state takeover school districts, this is not the case. We must find a better solution.”
“It is clear that turning over control of a school district to the state is no longer a viable solution to fixing failing schools. It’s time to take our schools back,” said Tucker (D-28).
“Students have been neglected for far too long now,” said Oliver (D-34). “Taking over a district without set goals, a culmination date or proper funding has not worked in New Jersey. If we continue to take the same action with poor performing school districts, we will get the same result – failing schools.”
“Education should improve under state control not fail,” said Spencer (D-29). “Students in poor performing school districts deserve better than what has been given them thus far. We simply cannot allow state control to continue failing students.”
“It’s undeniable that State takeover of local public schools is ineffective, unnecessary and obsolete,” said David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center. “Takeover is no longer a short-term strategy to improve struggling districts, but rather a means of permanent occupation, disenfranchising communities from their schools for almost 30 years. It’s time for the Legislature to end this failed, bankrupt law.”
Within four months of the bill’s effective date, the board of education of a district that has not had the governance component of school district effectiveness returned to local control prior to that date will call a special election to place the question of district classification as either a Type I or Type II district before the voters. More information on the bill can be found here.
The bill has been referred to the Assembly Education Committee.