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Rice: State Control Of Newark Schools Becoming ‘Property Taxation Without Representation’

Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, addresses his colleagues on the Senate floor.

Says State Must Honor Law and Return Control to Newark Voters

NEWARK – Senator Ronald L. Rice said today that the inability of the Newark School Advisory Board to conduct any business without the consent of the state’s Acting Commission of Education has disenfranchised local voters, who now are subject to “property taxation without representation.”

“This decision, if left unchallenged, would negatively affect the future of the 597 school districts that have yet to be taken over,” said Senator Rice. “It sets a horrible precedent that the Acting Commissioner can nullify State law based on a whim.”

Rice continues to be outraged by the state Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf’s recent decision to dismiss the progress made by the Newark Board of Education in addressing objective accountability benchmarks written in state law and refusal to restore local control of the Newark public school system.

Rice was the Senate sponsor of the law which established the Quality Single Accountability Continuum – or, QSAC – to eliminate any confusion and ambiguity over when and how the local control could be returned to a district subject to a state takeover.

“How much longer must Newark’s voters pay property taxes for their schools yet have no voice in how those dollars are spent?,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “It has been 16 years since the State took over the district, and voters have been denied a voice and authority through elected representatives. The QSAC review process is very clear, and Newark’s voters should, by right, be able to once again control their own schools. The Christie administration’s decision to simply brush aside the very real progress Newark has made and keep the entire district under their thumb is nothing more than property taxation without representation.

“In my opinion, this is also discriminatory, and amounts to a civil rights violation for the people living in Newark,” added Senator Rice.

In a letter sent to Newark Public Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson two weeks ago, Cerf wrote that local control would not be restored for at least three more years, despite the fact that Newark scored above 80 percent in four of five categories of review – a level which could have triggered at least partial return of the school district to the locally elected board. Rice said that the additional time Cerf cited exists nowhere in the law.

“The acting commissioner is far out of his bounds to arbitrarily deny the voters of Newark the right to run their schools that the QSAC process has shown they should have,” said Senator Rice. “This isn’t just about who makes the decisions that impacts the education of our children, this is about ensuring that thousands upon thousands of Newark voters are not disenfranchised. QSAC works, and it’s time that Trenton step out of the way and let Newark get its schools back.”

Senator Rice, who also serves as co-chair of the Joint Committee on the Public Schools, aims to hold hearings on the Administration’s arbitrary and subjective imposition of the QSAC law.