NEWARK, NJ -  State Sen. Ronald Rice on Thursday called for a federal investigation of the New Jersey education department's control over Paterson, Newark and Jersey City schoools, according to a story on

The story said Rice accused the state of "playing loose with performance assessments'' that are part of the process for city school board to regain control of their schools.

In the past 14 months, the state education department has lowered initial assessments of Paterson and Newark schools, imposing new scorces that made it more difficult for the districts to shed state control.

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Joining Rice at his press conference were Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly of Paterson and four members of the Paterson Board of Education - President Christopher Irving along with Chrystal Cleaves, Jonathan Hodges and Manuel Martinez.

Irving said the state's revision of Paterson's asessment scores was disturbing. "They gave us no justification for what they did,'' he said. "It puts the whole process in question.''

Irving emphasized that Paterson's difficulties with the state control system extend beyond the current administration in Trenton. "Let me make it clear that this has gone on across party lines,'' Irving said. "Whether it was Democrats or Republicans.''

Irving said the Newark-based Education Law Center has a legal challenge pending against the state's handling of the school district assessment process.

James Harris, the president of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP, also spoke at the news conference. Harris called statecontrol of the districts "a racist policy being imposed on cities where black and latino and poor people go to school," according to a story on