Proposed Bill Would End State Takeover of Districts, Governor Vows Veto

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Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, in coordination with several others Assembly members, have proposed legislation, A-3637, that would strip the state Board of Education of its authority to place districts under state management and would restore local control to current state-run districts within a year of its enactment.  Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to veto any measures that would do away with interventions.

Why the bill?

Wimberly said during a news conference the day the legislation was introduced that student improvement has been negligible under state takeovers, which he called “a breeding ground for fraud and mismanagement of funds.” Large numbers of staff members are fired in some schools, while younger, inexperienced teachers are brought in, along with high-paid consultants, he said.

Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer blamed state control for the lack of transparency when the Newark school district first learned that some drinking-water stations had elevated lead levels. The district informed the public for the first time in March — although data it recently released showed it had known of the lead issues since 2010. Had the district been under local control, that information would have been shared with the public sooner, Spencer argued

Joining the Wimberly and other lawmakers at the news conference was a representative for the Newark-based Education Law Center, who read a statement by executive director David Sciarra accusing the Christie administration of using state takeovers to push an agenda.

The Bill

Specifically, the legislation would eliminate the authority of the State Board of Education to place a school district under full or partial State intervention under the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJ QSAC), the State’s system of monitoring school districts.  The bill also provides that any school district that is under partial or full State intervention on its effective date will be returned to full local control within one year of that date. Within four months of the bill’s effective date, the board of education of a district that has not had the governance component of school district effectiveness returned to local control prior to that date will call a special election to place the question of district classification as either a Type I or Type II district before the voters.  The district will then be governed by the provisions of law concerning Type I or Type II districts as applicable.

NJPSA is tracking the legislation and will keep you posted if / when the legislation were to be considered.