Baraka calls potential Newark charter school expansion 'highly irresponsible'

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on October 19, 2015

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, shown here in a file photo, has criticized the potential expansion of charter schools in Newark, calling it 'highly irresponsible."

 

 

NEWARK — Mayor Ras Baraka sharply criticized a charter school organization's plans to expand its reach in Newark, saying it could come at the expense of children in the city's struggling public schools.

The mayor's comments come nearly a week after the KIPP network formally announced it would seek the state's permission to build five new schools and nearly triple their current enrollment. Uncommon Schools, which currently runs 11 North Star Academy charters around the city, is scheduled to present plans for a new facility to the city's Central Planning Board Monday night.

The possibility of adding up to half dozen new charters, which are publicly funded but privately run, has caused alarm among public school advocates, who fear the influx might further drain resources in a district already struggling with overcrowding and a stubborn budget deficit.

In a written statement addressing the KIPP expansion, Baraka echoed many of their concerns, saying it could "inflict more damage to the fragile education infrastructure in our school district."

"To move forward in this manner without any consideration of the impact on students is highly irresponsible and shows no consideration for the majority of children in the Newark Public School system," he said.

The mayor also appeared to weigh in on the matter on Twitter Sunday.

rasjbaraka @rasjbaraka

How can you say you want all children to be successful when you knowingly will expand at the demise of some of them without even a pause!

 

Baraka has been among the fiercest critics of the state's control over the public school district, which many consider responsible for the spread of charters, which now educate more than 30 percent of Newark students.

Former Superintendent of Schools Cami Anderson was an education reform champion whose controversial "One Newark" open enrollment plan expanded space for charters in district schools. Her replacement, former education commissioner Christopher Cerf, shares a similar background.

After Anderson's exit earlier this year, however, Baraka brokered a deal with Gov. Chris Christie to return control of the district to local officials after more than 20 years, though a board appointed to oversee that process have warned it could be years before the transition is complete.

Asked if he had concerns about what the system might look like after local control was restored, Baraka reiterated that his goal was to empower the city to address financial mismanagement and other systemic issues plaguing the district. The spread of charters, he said, had "nothing to do with it."

"When local control is returned to the citizens of Newark - as Jersey City just experienced - we will begin to address these matters from an organic and inclusive position," he said.

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