NEWARK, NJ – In response to the One Newark Plan, the city’s school reorganization plan, hundreds of families have committed to a boycott<http://npsboycott4freedom.com/> of the Newark Public School (NPS) system. One Newark – which rolls out today, the first day of the new school year –requires a district-wide reorganization that impacts more than a third of the district’s 75 schools, and threatens to displace more children of color from their neighborhood schools.“The danger of One Newark Plan is not abstract, and our children are in real danger,” said Yvonne Malone, a mother of a 12-year-old student participating in the boycott. “Under this plan, some of our children now have to cross dangerous bridges, traffic intersections, and take public transportation to unfamiliar parts of town all by themselves because their neighborhood schools have closed. Our children deserve better than this.”
Students participating in the boycott are invited to Freedom Schools, a safe education alternative that is led by members of the Newark community. The Freedom Schools are supported by clergy members who have opened the doors to their churches to hold classes. Teachers, nurses, and other volunteers have also committed to working with Newark students throughout the duration of the boycott.
“The Freedom Schools will be enriching for students,” said Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, a volunteer with Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE), a parent-led grassroots group that has been organizing for six years in the Newark community. “The curriculum taught at the Freedom Schools will incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to learning that is culturally relevant and one that will provide equivalent instruction for students.”
“Parents and students are boycotting because we want our voices to be heard,” said Sharon Smith, co-founder of PULSE. “Since the plan was announced last December, we have demanded a halt to the One Newark Plan and One Newark Enrolls. We have also demanded a return to local control of NPS, as well as a community-driven sustainable school system where parents, teachers, and students have input.”
The Newark Public School system has been under state control since 1995, making it one of the longest-running school systems to not have local control or accountability. In those nearly 20 years, generational schools that parents and grandparents of current schoolchildren had attended have been closed; the state has cut access to librarians, counselors, literacy coaches, language teachers, and teaching assistants; and the state has set neighborhood schools up to fail through policies including high stakes testing-based accountability systems, and enrollment policies that concentrate the most disadvantaged students in a few schools without providing the needed resources.
The lack of local control has devastated NPS, and for years the community has urged local control and used various mechanisms of protest including:
* Individual parents filing Title VI complaints<http://b.3cdn.net/advancement/dbb9368e46b3ffa960_8v1m6vqze.pdf> with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). DOE is currently investigating the compliant, which details the discriminatory nature of school closures, turnarounds, and charter expansions in Newark.
* Sit-ins and walkouts staged by Newark middle and high school students demanding the resignation of Superintendent Cami Anderson and a termination of the One Newark Plan.
* A march to the Department of Education by Newark parents, teachers, students and community members during the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education to protest the One Newark Plan and urge federal intervention.
* Electing Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who ran against One Newark Plan, calling it "radical" and "disruptive."
“We are escalating to a boycott because we have used every organizing tool available to us,” Johnnie Lattner, co-founder of PULSE. “Today we make a stand against Cami Anderson dividing, destroying, dismissing, dismantling, and disrespecting parents, students, teachers, and community. We say no to the One Newark Plan.”