Opinion: Osman Shabazz

The importance of Newark's upcoming School Board Election

By Osman Sharif Shabazz

The Civil Rights issue of the 21st Century for African Americans and Latinos is the quality of education this and the next generation will receive. The importance of this issue cannot be understated as it has long-term ramifications for employment and social mobility. Politicians know that the day-to-day living burdens of Urban Americans have taken their focus off of the quality of leadership that is responsible for ensuring that Newark’s kids receive a good education. In recent elections, voters have selected candidates who have been cordial to oversee their children’s education and seemed to care less about scrutinizing qualifications to ensure their children are not short changed in their academic training and cultivation. This voting practice has been a costly method of choosing many of Newark’s Board of Education members.

This upcoming Newark Public Schools Advisory Board election must see voters put aside the personality of those running for positions on the Board or their name recognition. If Newark’s students are going to have a real chance at success, Newark’s voters must choose candidates based upon qualifications and commitment to children receiving the same quality education as Whites in the Suburbs. If not, Newark’s parents will experience their children being left behind and the achievement gap between Blacks/Latinos widen versus Whites/Asians. The consequences of this achievement gap will most certainly lead to Newark’s children having lower SAT Scores than Whites when it comes time for College admissions—thereby relegating Blacks and Latinos to the lowest ranked Colleges and Universities. This ultimately has economic consequences when it comes to job opportunities for our children.

If Whites have professionals on their community’s Board of Education with Finance Backgrounds, Educational experience, Legal Backgrounds, College degrees in relevant fields, etc… why is it that Newark’s Board of Education does not have the same? How is it that Newark’s Board of Education can afford to have members without College Degrees on it? Will this lead to Newark’s Schools getting the same quality advice as White Schools in the Suburbs? The answer is no. We have to be very selective in it comes to choosing representation for our children’s future educational quality. Newark’s Schools are already ranked near the bottom in the State of New Jersey.

Electing candidates based on name recognition or simple cordiality will most certainly ensure that Newark’s kids are once again cheated of a successful future. Voting in subpar men and women who are not qualified will deny Newark’s children the opportunity to receive the same quality education as those in affluent Towns throughout New Jersey. Our kids deserve better from us. We must vote based on “qualifications”, not personalities.

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