Policy Brief

N.J. Taking Over Camden School District

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The beleaguered 13,700- student Camden, N.J., school district will be put under state control, becoming the fourth district in New Jersey to be taken over by the state and the first by Gov. Chris Christie.

The state will have both academic and financial control of the district, whose schools are some of the lowest-performing in the Garden State: The academic records of 90 percent of Camden's schools place them in the bottom 5 percent of schools statewide.

The legislature passed a law in 1988 permitting state takeovers of school systems deemed unable to provide a "thorough and efficient" education. The state will be responsible for selecting a new superintendent and leadership team for the district, and the Camden school board will be relegated to an advisory role.

Camden had been given eight months to turn around last year, and those eight months expired this month.

The state government is already a presence in the district: A state-run "regional achievement center"Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader oversees some particularly low-performing schools, and a monitor oversees some spending decisions.

Christopher Cerf, the state commissioner of education, said that there was no plan to dismantle the current district board, as happened in other state takeovers in New Jersey.

Gov. Christie, a Republican, is up for re-election in the fall. And while some Democrats in the legislature and Dana Redd, the mayor of Camden, supported the move, other prominent players, including the New Jersey Education Association, say that the state's record on takeovers is questionable, and that Gov. Christie has thrown his support to charter schools rather than appropriately funding the district's schools.

The Jersey City system was taken over in 1989 because of poor academic performance and remained under state control for more than a decade. Paterson, which was taken over in 1991, and Newark, taken over in 1994, still have state-appointed boards, and academic performance in those districts remains low.

The local school board in Newark initiated a lawsuit in 2011 aimed at regaining autonomy from the state.

Vol. 32, Issue 27, Page 18

Published in Print: April 3, 2013, as N.J. Sets Takeover Of Camden System
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