The U.S. attorney general is investigating allegations that Newark’s school re-organization plan discriminates against Black students. The “One Newark” school reorganization plan, announced by Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson in December, is scheduled to be operational this fall. It includes converting elementary schools into early childhood centers, relocating other schools to underused facilities and turning other schools into smaller academies. The plan also suggests the expansion of charter schools that, to date, serve about 20 percent of Newark students.
Parents and community leaders say that Anderson moved forward with her plan without community input. Moreover, some believe the plan is an effort to privatize schools and that underperforming schools should be fixed, not closed. These schools serve some of the most disadvantaged students.
A national civil rights organization filed a complaint in May against the plan to consolidate or relocate almost a third of the city’s schools. The Journey for Justice Alliance and the Advancement Project wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
“We remain steadfast in our belief that the One Newark plan is not discriminatory and is, in fact, predicated on the goals of equity and excellent educational options for all of our students regardless of race, socioeconomic status or learning ability,” said the district’s general counsel, Charlotte Hitchcock.”
In the complaint filed by parents and a branch of Parents Unified for Local School Education with the departments of Education and Justice, it was stated that 51 percent of Newark students are Black, yet they make up 86 percent of those affected by the One Newark plan.
Said state education department spokesman Michael Yaple, “The U.S. Department of Education has a specific process that it follows whenever a complaint is filed, and it would be inappropriate to debate the issue in the press or public while they are looking into the matter.”