Baraka lauds state Board of Education recommendation for return to local control of Newark schools

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka applauded a key state Board of Education recommendation to return local control to the Newark school board after more than 20 years of state rule. 

"Reaching this milestone is the culmination of years of struggle by parents, students, educators, and community activists. Time has shown that the State control has not improved our schools," Baraka said in a written statement.

"As authority returns to our local school board, ultimately it is the residents, particularly the parents and caretakers of Newark’s children, who must seize this moment to forge new conversations and actions that focus on building up our school district for the students of today and future generations of Newarkers," Baraka said. 

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The recommendation by New Jersey Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington for the return of local control to the Newark school board is likely the last hurdle to end a struggle that has roiled public education in the state largest city.

The Newark school system has been state-run since 1995, which means the the state has appointed the district's superintendent.

Harrington's recommendation was spurred by a state board vote on Wednesday to certify Newark's Quality Single Accountability System (QSAC) scores. 

These scores are how the state oversees schools and gives the state the authority to take over a district. The QSAC scores measure a district's work regarding five key components: fiscal management; governance; instruction and program; operations; and personnel. 

A vote to return local control could come as soon as the board's September meeting, according to state officials. 

Baraka is a former Newark high school principal who has been a vocal supporter of local control, seeing the issue as a critical part of civic self-determination. His support for local control was a key part of his platform when he won the mayoral seat in 2014. During the campaign, he often lambasted Cami Anderson, the then-state-appointed Newark schools superintendent, for her policies. 

Baraka looked forward to the challenges inherent to the return of local control. 

"The coming year will not be easy," Baraka said. "My office will be actively involved to ensure that the voices of Newarkers are represented in the transition planning and implementation process and that the process is transparent and well communicated to residents." 

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