Dear Governor Murphy

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An Open Letter to Governor Murphy
from the Students of Camden

Dear Governor Murphy,

We are the NJ Communities United (NJCU) Camden Student Organizing Committee. For the last year we have worked closely with our fellow students in Newark, who have also endured the imposition of state control over their public schools. We are inspired by the victories that have been achieved in Newark and we believe that local control would be best for our communities in Camden.

We have made several attempts to draw your attention to the conditions in our public schools. Last summer we rallied outside of two fundraisers in South Jersey hosted by George Norcross – a developer who has profited from the rapid expansion of corporate operated Renaissance Schools and real estate deals which are set to drive up housing costs and displace many families in Camden. On both occasions, no one from your campaign come out to speak with us about our concerns.

A few days after you took office, we mobilized with Newark students to take over the offices of the NJ Charter School Association. We broadcast that civil disobedience on social media to let the world know how the charter school industry is leading an attack on our public schools and laid out a set of demands that you – as Governor – can implement to restore equity to our city and rebuild our public schools.

Just last week, we organized parents to support our sit-in at the Camden Board of Education. As our supporters gathered outside with sleeping bags, several of us were inside occupying the building and prepared to stay overnight until we secured a meeting with you. The interim Superintendent assured us that the request was made and allowed us to view the email on her phone that was sent to you from departing Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard. 

As of today, we have yet to hear from you or anyone in your administration. As we continue to organize and strengthen our movement, we are prepared to continue to escalate our actions until our demands are met and education justice prevails in Camden.

State takeover laws have been used to strip Black and Brown communities of democratic control over our cities and have undermined our public schools by rapidly expanding corporate charters and Renaissance schools, draining millions of dollars from our public schools. The State Takeover of our school district has created public school deserts while fueling profits for corporate charters and serving the interests of the Norcross-Sweeney political machine.  Brown and Black communities, like Camden, refuse to continue to serve the interests of a system that does not respect or represent our self-determination and autonomy.

We are committed to rebuilding our public schools, and to start that process there must be a moratorium on new corporate charter and Renaissance schools. Further, existing charter and Renaissance schools should be fully transparent and accountable to the communities they serve. They receive public funds but are privately operated.  They need to be accountable to all students and families in Camden.  

As Governor of New Jersey, you determine the future of our public schools. We invite you to a discussion with us about restoring democracy to Camden and defending our public schools against Wall Street’s attack – our expectation is that you will stand against corporate interests that extract wealth from Black and Brown communities.

Absent an opportunity to meet with you in Camden, we will continue to organize and demand education justice for Camden. Please contact us at justice@unitednj.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

Resolutely,

Belmaris Gomez & Lanasia Robinson
The NJ Communities United Student Organizing Committee

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