Senate Committee passes bill giving schools boards a say in school closings

By Peggy McGlone/The Star-Ledger

Parents and community activists from Newark, Montclair and Camden testified before a state senate committee this morning in favor of a bill that requires local school boards to approve the closing of schools.

Sponsored by Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex), the bill was prompted by Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson’s school reorganization plan, which will move, consolidate and close several buildings in the state-controlled district, while transferring other neighborhood schools to charter schools.

Rice told the Senate Education Committee the bill is “simple … but very important” because it makes certain that local citizens’ representatives have a say in any school closing plan.

“We need input from the people we put on the board,” Rice said. “If we allow things to happen in Newark now, it’s going to happen in Paterson and Camden.”

Anderson’s plan has been met with vocal opposition since its introduction last month. Some of the same critics traveled to Trenton to repeat their criticism.

“These are our schools, our children,” Newark resident and parent Frank Adao, of Parents Against One Newark, told the panel. “Reform is needed, but this is not a well-thought out plan.”

Several others testified that the bill is needed to protect school districts not under state control.

Julia Rubin of Save Our Schools told the panel most citizens probably think school boards must approve such an action. This bill codifies what is common sense, she said.

“You can’t do something as radical as closing a school without getting the approval of the community,” she said.

If passed, the bill would require the Newark School Advisory Board to approve the changes proposed by Anderson, which seems unlikely.