Hundreds of parents, teachers and community activists packed Newark’s First Avenue School auditorium last week to protest Newark school Superintendent Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” plan. The plan would close or privatize many Newark neighborhood schools. 

The rally was part of the “National Day of Action to Reclaim Promise of Public Education,” a network of events organized by the American Federation of Teachers and held in more than 60 cities. The campaign is focused on restoring community involvement in public education and criticizing “corporate-influenced school reform.”

A new Rutgers University study shows that Anderson’s “One Newark” plan has serious flaws. The schools that bear the brunt of the consequences are those with many low-income Black and Latino students.

“If we believe that public education is an anchor of democracy, a propeller of our economy and the vehicle through which we help all children achieve their dreams, then we have to make public education about three things,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Helping our students build trusting relationships with both their peers and adults, equipping them with essential knowledge and the tools to critically think and problem solve, [and] most importantly, helping them develop persistence and grit.”

She promised the national union would continue to support opposition to the “One Newark” plan “until this community gets its schools back.”

Meanwhile, a bill is gaining momentum in the state house that would set strict requirements on any closure or consolidation of a public school, including in state-controlled districts like Newark.