Lawmakers seek to end N.J. takeover of schools

By Nick Clunn, Staff Writer. The Record.

Paterson would gain control of its public school system for the first time in 21 years under legislation introduced by Democrats that also would limit future state takeovers to five years, lawmakers announced Friday.

“It’s time for the state to admit that the prolonged takeover of a local school district is a failed experiment, and it’s time to return the school districts that have languished under state control back to the people in those school districts,” said state Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, who has sponsored the bill with Nellie Pou, D-North Haledon.

Newark and Jersey City are also under some level of state oversight — a program that has frustrated leaders in all three cities, particularly as urban schools continue to struggle despite decades of intervention by the Department of Education. Paterson has been under state control since 1991 and continues to have six of the lowest-performing schools in the state.

Since that time, the state’s third-largest district — with 30,000 students — has been led by a state-appointed superintendent accountable to Trenton instead of an elected school board, which only acts as an advisory panel.

The bill would immediately end state control of the three districts and again empower the Paterson board to vote on budgets, hires, policies and other major decisions. It would also give trustees the option of keeping the state-appointed superintendent and prevent the state from intervening for another five years.

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