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May 21, 2014

Charter Schools Need to be Part of Newark Reform


Newark Mayor-elect Ras Baraka made education one of the central issues of his campaign. Now that the often-contentious campaigning is over, Baraka will need to work with all the key stakeholders in the community — from the district and charter sectors to parents and community leaders — to pursue workable reforms that will expand access to high-quality public education options for Newark students.

Though the mayoral race inflamed passions on both sides, education reform has been a major source of contention in Newark for a long time, and progress has suffered as a result. Real, lasting reform requires engagement at every level in our community. In Newark, where public charter schools are a significant part of the public school landscape, charter schools must also be part of that engagement.

Baraka met with leaders in the charter school community in recent months, acknowledging that charters are part of the overall solution for public-school students in Newark. In fact, most Newarkers support charter schools; a Newark Charter School Fund poll found that 71 percent of residents support expanding the charter sector.

It is critical that all of us, including the incoming Baraka administration, as well as Newark Public Schools, engage the community around decision-making that impacts the city’s schoolchildren. This effort is already under way, as leaders across the board have worked hard to foster a spirit of cooperation between the district and public charters. Though it’s not always easy or pretty, that spirit is guiding us through some difficult decisions as we try to get the system back on track.

Efforts like the recently launched Compact for Newark’s Students try to end the conflict and put the rhetoric aside to move forward on the thorny issues. The compact recognizes that all stakeholders — district and charter schools alike, as well as parents and the students themselves — are critical to finding equitable solutions.

Read more on the Star-Ledger ...

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