Jersey City schools could gain full local control today


NJ Education Commissioner David Hespe
NJ Education Commissioner David Hespe

BREAKING: JERSEY CITY MAYOR STEVE FULOP announces full control of the Jersey City schools will be returned to the locally elected school board. He made the announcement before the state school board voted to relinquish state control, demonstrating the deal was in the works without regard for the state board’s opinion. As a political fig leaf to justify returning the district to local control despite poor test scores, Hespe created a committee to “study” what to do about the embarrassing problem of student performance. But Fulop’s original statement–including remarks by superintendent Marcia Lyles–shows the deal was in to restore local control no matter what the state board members think.

The state board voted to restore control of personnel and operations to the local board. Yet, in its 2012-2013 report, the state operated district in Jersey City said this:

“Local control for personnel was returned to the district in 2012. The District continues to pursue full local control in the areas Instruction and Program.”

 Local control for personnel was returned to the district in 2012. The District continues to pursue full local control in the areas Instruction and Program.

Here is my earlier story:

The state Board of Education could return full control over the Jersey City public schools to its local school board today  (Wednesday, Oct. 7)–exactly 26 years and three days after New Jersey officials, citing mismanagement and student failure, took over the state’s second-largest school system.


A member of the state board, speaking anonymously, said the panel would vote on a proposal from state Education Commissioner David Hespe that would return local control, despite the failure of the district to attain adequate progress in improving student performance.


“There is going to be a debate,” said the board member. “There has to be a discussion about the failure of the state to improve student performance.”


The Jersey City schools were taken over Oct. 4, 1989, by a unanimous vote of the state board. At the time, Saul Cooperman was state education commissioner and Tom Kean was governor–a Republican who pushed the school takeover bill through a reluctant legislature. It was the first state takeover of a New Jersey school district.


Since then, the state has taken over the Paterson, Newark, and Camden public schools. The nature of the state regimes have changed radically in the last quarter-century however–beginning with an effort to clean up corruption and, in the case of the recent seizure of Camden schools under Gov. Chris Christie, to create an environment for the growth of privatized education.


Despite the symbolic importance of the return of full local control,  the Jersey City school board has, in fact, had more control of its system than any of the other state takeover districts. Control over governance and finances were returned to the local board in 2008 and control over personnel in 2012. In only two areas–instruction and operations, which includes facilities–has the state continued control.


The most immediate impact may be on the superintendent, Marcia Lyles, whose contract is up next year and who must be notified of non-renewal by December.


The state school board’s decision also is likely to have an impact on Newark where growing tensions over 20 years of state control boiled over into massive street demonstrations that threatened to embarrass  Christie’s presidential aspirations.


The furor over continuing state control in Newark all but vanished after newly-elected Mayor Ras Baraka reached a deal with Christie that resulted in the firing of unpopular superintendent Cami Anderson and a vague promise by the governor that local control would be returned.


The same deal brought former state education commissioner  Christopher Cerf to Newark as Anderson’s replacement. Cerf had played a key role in Christie’s handling of state-takeover districts. For example, he returned some measure of local control to Jersey City despite the district’s failure to reach all state standards. At the same time, as the state education chief,  Cerf refused to return local control as commissioner despite Newark’s attainment of all appropriate scores under the state accountability system known as the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC).


Courts have upheld the “discretion” of the state’s education commissioner in determining district progress. Cerf also brought in both Anderson to Newark and Lyles to Jersey City. Both had worked with him in the New York public schools under  chancellor Joel Klein.


A major problem facing Hespe is the failure of the Jersey City school district to reach student performance standards.  If he wants to return full local control to Jersey City, he will have to explain how the district can be released from state control without improvement in student performance. Then he will have to explain to Newark residents why he also won’t return full control to their schools.


The results of the latest round of statewide testing also are likely to be released at today’s meeting.

  1. It makes sense it was a republican who pushed the bill through. All of these ideas are republican, although unfortunately DFER adopted them, and Booker and Obama were run a democrats, but really are republicans underneath their costumes. Obama has pushed this agenda to the hilt, and its really sad. I honestly didn’t know that JC was under state control, because I am late to the game of education politics. Its a shame and a crime when politicians do the bidding of a few for financial gain, and the few profit of the backs of taxpayers by scheme to privates everything and have taxes pay the way. The 1% have had their eye on all those education billions for 30 years, and for the last 20 have made great strides in harming the masses. What do they care to education the masses? Their kids attend private schools, and they’re tired of paying for “those” kids … better to train us to be walmart greeters and mcdonald’s burger flippers. They have dumbed down the curriculum with common core, insinuated Pearson into the mix with endless testing revenues, caused chaos and churn, and cost taxpayers billions of wasted cash on plans and curriculum and technological infrastructure that hasn’t produced what it was purported to produce publicly, but rather, DID produce what it was meant to do – undermine public schools, bankrupt public schools, and make way for real estate and property grabs via charter schools where administrators make $250,000 annually, and union-busted teachers provided by TFA or some kid fresh out of school with a degree who can’t find a job elsewhere, make $30,000 annually, for 12 hour days and Saturdays.

    They want to bust unions, close public schools, and profit, profit, profit. When you ask to look at their books, they take you to court and say they are private. Can’t have it both ways, yet they do.

    How do we stop this insanity?

    Hespe can be trusted to do the work of his masters. He is the henchman, lying every time he opens his mouth.

    In the end, its about the real estate and the property. When charters close, they get it all. Is that what we call “failing up?”

    Sorry for the tangent, but this burns me up.

    Its time to return JC to the people. Its time for that to happen in Newark too, and they should stop what they are doing in Camden. If they SUPPORTED the public schools with the energy and money they use to destroy them, we’d stop having this conversation.

    Bob Braun: Thanks for this.

    1. Sorry for the grammatical errors above. I was angry!

      1. You are amazing! Thank you for saying what needed to be said.

  2. I certainly hope the caveat to receive a portion or full control is not that superintendent Lyles must stay.
    This district needs to move forward with fresh thinking and a superintendent who will have a connection to the community the children and the staff.

  3. Is the plan to return more aspects of local control to Jersey City while simultaneously completing the privatization of Newark Public Schools under Superintendent Cerf? What guarantees did Mayor Baraka receive that the district would revert to local control at an unspecified time in the future?

    1. That’s the big question for Newark…and the future of public education in the US.

    2. Newark is such valuable land for development being just a 5 minute train ride from downtown Manhattan. There are also all the educational product and program developers who want access to huge government budgets as well the ivory tower elites who want to push their “reform” ideas. Newark is just a guinea pig for these powerful interest groups.

      Newark must stop playing the Guinea pig or victim in this charade. It must stand up as a community and assert it’s independence and identity, otherwise as a community it will be replaced and Newark Public Schools along with it.

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