Gov. Chris Christie and his education commissioner announced today a state takeover of the city’s troubled school system, sources have told the Courier-Post.
Christie and Commissioner Christopher Cerf went to Woodrow Wilson High Schoo lthis morning to inform city officials that New Jersey will take over the district and its finances and the governor will appoint a new school superintendent.
On Friday, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak and New Jersey Department of Education spokeswoman Barbara Morgan declined to comment on the reason for the visit.
Rumors were rampant here over the weekend, even as potential superintendent candidates met with school board members Saturday.
Christie’s office released his public schedule Sunday night, confirming the appearance at Wilson.
Camden City Board of Education President Kathryn Blackshear said she had been on the phone with board members throughout the day Sunday, hoping to get a clearer picture on what the governor will say.
“We are trying to piece it together, but my personal feeling is the governor is going to announce a takeover,” Blackshear said.
In a statement, Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester, N.J., said the time had come for a state takeover.
“We recognize this is a dramatic change,” he said.
The school system for this city of about 77,000 across the Delaware River from Philadelphia long has been plagued with low test scores, falling graduation rates and declining enrollment. During the 2011-12 school year, graduation rates plummeted by 7 percentage points to 49.3%, down from 56.9% the year before. The graduation rate statewide is 86%, according to the New Jersey Department of Education.
Camden, the sixth largest school district in New Jersey, has the second lowest graduation rate. Only Trenton, N.J., schools are lower.
Enrollment here has continued to decline because of charter schools in the area and a school choice program. Students numbered about 13,700 in the 2011-12 school year, and 84% were in the free and reduced-price lunch program.
The state’s three largest school districts have been under state control for decades:
- Jersey City since 1989
- Paterson since 1991
- Newark since since 1995
At least 20 states have taken control of local school districts in the past two decades, according to The New York Times. Two dozen states have enacted policies allowing them to take over a school district because of academic problems, according to a study from Rutgers University.