When States Take Over School Districts, the Community Loses

State takeovers of struggling school districts have always been controversial, and more states are getting out of the business of directly running local schools. But in Camden, New Jersey, the state takeover of the city’s schools shows that not everyone is ready to abandon this vestige of the education reform movement. ImpactED, an evaluation and research center at the University of Pennsylvania, recently released a report finding that Camden public school students in grades three-to-eight have

In Camden, School Closures Revealed How Unequal the System Can Be

During the Obama Administration, thousands of public schools were closed due to being deemed “low performing” because of their students’ test scores. This was part of Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, and it resulted in school closures in cities across the United States—including Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, and Philadelphia—in a misguided attempt to improve the education of Black and brown children. In 2012, Race to the Top caught on in New Jersey, where state officials determined that

Public Service or Protests for Black Lives?

A few weeks ago, a verdict was rendered: Derek Chauvin, guilty on all three counts for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May. Floyd’s family — and, by extension, Black America — saw the system hold a police officer accountable for killing a Black person. The verdict is a modicum of justice at best, and an anomaly at worst. Sadly, the work of fighting police brutality is far from over. We are still waiting on the criminal legal system’s handling of the recent police killings of Dau

Why Aren’t There More Black Teachers?

Black History month is a time to commemorate the accomplishments of Black people. It must also be a time to reflect on the strivings of Black people—because, sadly, many of the same battles launched generations before continue to be fought today. One of those enduring battles is the systematic erasure of Black teachers from U.S. schools. An enduring legacy of the Brown v. Board decision, which ordered the racial desegregation of white-only schools, is that it led to the mass firing of Black

Closing Public Schools Isn’t the Answer

Sadly, school closure announcements in the city of Camden, New Jersey, are all too common. Currently three schools—Cooper’s Poynt Family School, Ulysses S. Wiggins Family School, and Harry C. Sharp Elementary School—are slated to be closed. While the goal of these closures among school district officials and policymakers is to improve the educational opportunities of Camden children, the current course for achieving that goal is the wrong one. It was said previously by then-governor Chris Christie

What Biden Must Do for Public Schools

President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has been an absolute disaster for public education and especially historically marginalized students. She cancelled an Obama Administration policy regarding school discipline guidance designed to lower the rates whereby Black children are suspended from school and referred to law enforcement, even using racist pseudoscience to justify her action. She fought against union representation, specifically by attempting to nullify the role

Why Trump’s Myth of American Exceptionalism Is So Dangerous

My grandmother was born and raised in Camden, New Jersey. When she was young, she would accompany her parents on family trips to where they had grown up: Melfa, Virginia, a tiny enclave at the bottom of the Delmarva Peninsula, between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It was on one of those trips that she learned why her parents had decided to make New Jersey their home: Melfa, at that time, was still very much in the Jim Crow South. When she was sent to the local store to pick up

Tom Cotton Wants to Stop Kids From Learning About American Racism

In the middle of a global pandemic and a racial reckoning—with schools removing the names of racist namesakes, baseball players taking a knee to protest police brutality, and federal agents kidnapping protesters in Portland—Tom Cotton, a U.S. Senator from Arkansas, has decided to take up the cause of preventing The New York Times’ 1619 Project from being taught in America’s schools. The critically acclaimed 1619 Project, spearheaded by Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, is a compilation of essay

Trump’s Plan to Reopen Schools Puts Black Students at Risk

President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are determined to reopen the nation’s schools for full-time, in-person learning, going so far as to threaten schools with defunding if they fail to do so. Sending students back to school every day, as Trump demanded, is especially dangerous for Black children because Black people are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. An analysis by APM Research Lab this month found that African Americans have died from COVID-19 at twice

Why Saying Black Lives Matter Isn’t Enough

The murder of George Floyd—and the protests and calls for defunding the police that have emerged in the wake of his death—has reinvigorated the debate over whether law enforcement officers, who are often armed, should be in schools. School districts in Minneapolis, Denver, and Seattle, among others, have either ended or suspended their contracts with local police. In Oakland, the school district eliminated its own police department, and Chicago narrowly voted to keep its contract with local pol

Amy Coopers Are Everywhere

Last week, I watched American cities burn: Minneapolis, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Philadelphia. And while the murder of George Floyd was the catalyst, Amy Cooper played a role. On May 25, Amy Cooper, a white woman, called the police on Christian Cooper (no relation) who was bird-watching in a wooded section of Central Park. Cooper, a black man, had simply asked her to put her dog on a leash. When a police officer in Minneapolis killed George Floyd that same day, it crysta

Our Schools Were Racist Before COVID-19. Here’s How They Could Get Worse

With in-person education nationwide stalled due to the pandemic, it’s not at all clear when public school systems will restart. But one thing we can be sure of is that, when students eventually return to school, there likely will be some new iteration of racism in the education system. If American history has taught us anything, it’s that racist policies are never eliminated. They’re only replaced with more sophisticated methods of maintaining racism’s stranglehold on black people and our socie

Why We Aren’t Prepared for Remote Learning

The COVID-19 outbreak in the United States has school districts scrambling to switch to remote learning. Entire states have either closed their public schools, or they are preparing to, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In New Jersey, in the school district where I work, we are following the guidance of Governor Phil Murphy, who recently shuttered schools, restaurants, and malls. Before Murphy’s announcement, we only had two half-days to put together learning activities and oth

Why Charter Schools Are Failing Black Students

The education system has failed black children. At least, that’s how black parents see it. As a 2017 poll shows, 42 percent of black parents believe the education provided to black students is not as good as that for whites. 90 percent do not believe that schools in black communities receive the same level of funding as schools in white communities. The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 found that segregation was detrimental to the development of black children. B

Cory Booker’s Candidacy Forced Us to Examine the Root of Inequality in Schools

As a presidential candidate, Senator Cory Booker took a multi-pronged approach to addressing racial inequity in education: calling to triple Title I funding and replicating the best practices at high-quality charter schools, hoping their expansion could serve communities on an even larger scale. The New Jersey Democrat also proposed overhauling the Federal Charter School Program, not eliminating it, as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have called for. His plan for the overhaul encou

Hire More Black Teachers

Data showing black children in schools nationwide are disciplined more than other kids has been available for years, but this disgrace is still making headlines. This includes a recent article from New Jersey outlet NJ.com noting the disproportionate disciplining of black children in the state’s public schools. According to the Civil Rights Data Collection, during the 2013-2014 school year (the most recent state data available), black students made up only 16 percent of New Jersey’s student pop

Long Denied a Voice in Local Schools, Camden Citizens Ready for Historic Vote

Citizens in Camden, New Jersey are getting ready to vote in a school board election after years of state takeover that has denied them any voice in their schools. Will this election be an opportunity for local voices to be heard? City residents will vote to fill three vacant seats for which nine candidates are running. The candidates are focusing on such goals as financial accountability, strengthening the culture of the district, recruiting a diverse workforce, and supporting mental wellbeing

We’ve Never Forgiven Haiti for Being Black

What’s happening in Haiti is a revolution. Opposition leaders have called for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise for corruption and a mismanaged economy. After months of protests asking the government to investigate accusations, including that allies of Moise have embezzled millions from a Venezuelan aid program to Haiti, they’ve pledged there will be no peace until the president steps down, and have deployed supporters to block streets and shut down businesses. Gas and food shortages an

Segregation Is Worse in Charter Schools: a Q&A with Julian Vasquez-Heilig

In New Jersey, where I live and work as an educator, there are eighty-eight charter schools. Seventy-three of these charter schools are located in municipalities with poverty rates above the national rate. Of the 23,795 black students enrolled in New Jersey charter schools, 93 percent attend charter schools in municipalities whose poverty rate is above the national average—compared to only 52 percent of white students. Unfortunately, charter schools have exacerbated segregation like this in ma

What the Research Gets Wrong About State Takeovers of Public Schools

State takeovers of municipal school districts are a commonly used tactic by policymakers who say they want to improve the education of black and brown children. State takeovers of local schools have taken place in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Louisiana, and such efforts are being considered in California and Texas. My home state of New Jersey has a particularly long history of state takeovers. Generally, during state takeovers the locally elected school board is dissolved, the superintende
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