April 06, 2017

Newark Students Disrupt School Board Candidates Debate Hosted by Charter School Industry

Seven School Board Candidates Sign Student Demand to Enact Charter Expansion Moratorium in Newark

Newark, NJ – Long-simmering tensions over the rapid expansion of charter schools in the City of Newark took a militant turn at a school board candidate forum hosted by the Newark Trust for Education on April 5th. The student members of NJ Communities United disrupted the forum to demand that candidates running for the Newark Public Schools Board of Education support two student demands: to enact a moratorium on charter school expansion in the city and to end the controversial One Newark Universal Enrollment program which prioritizes charter school assignments over public school assignments.

A video of the dramatic student-takeover of the forum was posted on Facebook immediately following the disobedience.

Seven of the candidates running for seats on the school board immediately signed their names onto the student demands, including Patricia Bradford, Denise Cole, Josephine Garcia, Jameel Ibrahim, Sheila Montegue, Philip Seelinger, and Charles Love.

The student-led non-violent takeover of the school board candidates’ forum was a continuation of the student civil disobediences that forced the resignation of the previous superintendent, Cami Anderson, an appointee of Governor Christie. NJCU student leaders have escalated the size and militancy of their actions over the last year in response to the continued charter school expansion under Governor Christie’s current appointed Superintendent, Christopher Cerf. Students have expressed frustration with Senator Corey Booker and his support of charter school expansion, and with Mayor Baraka’s decision to run another “Unity Slate” of candidates for school board, which for the second election cycle includes two charter school advocates and one public school advocate.

“We love our public schools,” says Jeremiah Encarnacio, a sophomore at Science Park High School. “There’s a lot of great public schools and teachers, but public schools continue to be closed. A lot of cuts to programs and a lot of budget cuts that make it harder for our public schools to run. There are a lot of great programs at my school that have been cut. All these budget cuts are because money is being diverted to charter schools.”

“The difference between public schools and charter schools is not that charter schools choose who they let in, they choose who they kick out, so charter schools claim to have a higher percentage of students who perform well,” Bradley, also a student at Science Park High School. “The charter schools kick out kids whose problems are too big. We should not be diverting our money to them, we should be putting that money into actually helping students who want and need a good education.”

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