On The Issue: School Closures and Segregation in Newark Public Schools

From 1995, until recently in 2018, Newark Public Schools were under the control of the state of New Jersey, who appointed a hand-picked Superintendent for the school district.  This has been a controversial issue, especially since 2010, when Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to Newark schools.  However, the use of this money has been up for debate and a large focus for those in charge of Newark schools since 2010 has been to close low-performing schools and offer a charter school education and an open enrollment system in its place (Chen, 2017).  This controversial tactic has been effective in some ways, as since 1995 the graduation rate has grown 23%, and the district is one of the better scoring urban districts on state tests (Chen, 2017).  But significant problems remain for students in the district whose neighborhood school may have shut down.  Also, the more charter schools expand, the less funding the public schools will receive as students leave.

Additionally, the expansion of school choice and charter schools under former Superintendents Cami Anderson and Christopher Cerf, increased the segregation of schools in Newark.  What was thought to be a process involving the integration of students from various backgrounds might have actually created a greater divide.  Weber (2015) finds that there is drastic difference in the populations served in the most popular charter schools against the most popular district schools. Despite observable outcomes to the expansion of school choice and emphasis on closing low-performing schools, there are real-life issues creating a problem that is bigger than test scores


Faces of Newark school leadership. From left to right: Cami Anderson, Christopher Cerf, Chris Christie, Cory Booker, Ras Baraka.






Below Mayor Ras Baraka speaks below in 2015 on the problems facing Newark under state control: (Note, local control was regained in 2018)


My rationale

I wanted analyze the issue of school closures and segregation in Newark Schools because it is so close to where I am from.  Living 10 minutes from Newark, it is a hub for business, politics, activism, transportation, and so many other aspects in New Jersey.  I think it is important to understand the battle between the state and local leaders over education within the city and how it impacts the students.  There are pros and cons to the policies enacted and it is important to continue to conduct research and understand the issues.