U.S. Department Of Ed Investigating Newark Schools After Discrimination Claims

July 28, 2014  |  

The Newark public school system is the largest in New Jersey. It is also one of the lowest-performing in the entire state.  Newark schools face a number of hurdles. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg even committed $100 million to help improve the city’s schools while Mayor Cory Booker was in office. The system started a major reform in 2012, but many of those changes have remained controversial. There was even a disruption in March of this year over performance-based teacher layoff.

The reform plan is having even more trouble now as the U.S. Department of Education revealed it was investigating complaints that a reorganization of public schools in that city discriminates against black students. Parents are upset over scheduled school closings and conversions to charter schools under the “One Newark” plan and charge that it disproportionately affects black students. Just over half of the city’s residents are black, according to U.S. Census data.

Parents and a branch of Parents Unified for Local School Education filed a complaint with the departments of Education and Justice in May, saying 51 percent of Newark students are Black but made up 86 percent of those affected by “One Newark.” Meanwhile, White students only make up about eight percent and are less than one percent of the students directly affected.

“We can confirm that the Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether the Newark Public Schools’ enactment of the ‘One Newark’ plan at the end of the 2013-2014 school year discriminates against black students on the basis of race,” an Education Department spokesman said in a statement.

According to the department, the investigation started this month.

Launched the end of 2013, the “One Newark” plan calls for the relocation and consolidation of one-quarter of all city schools. Charter schools will now be allowed to operate in three city-owned facilities. The worst-performing schools in the city will be closed. “Critics say the plan is an effort to privatize schools, that underperforming schools should be fixed, not closed, and that those schools serve some of the most disadvantaged students,” reports The Huffington Post.

“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,” Charlotte Hitchcock, chief of staff and general counsel for Newark public schools, said.

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