August 12, 2014
RICE, TURNER REACT TO GOVERNOR'S VETO OF BILL REQUIRING TRANSPARENCY IN SCHOOL CLOSURES IN STATE-CONTROLLED DISTRICTS
Bill Prompted By Proposal In Newark To Reorganize District, Shuttering Some Schools
TRENTON – Senators Ronald L. Rice and Senator Shirley K. Turner issued the following statements on the governor’s veto of legislation that would have required transparency in school closures in state-controlled school districts. The bill (S-966) would have required a state district superintendent to present an application for a school closure to the board of education at a public meeting, and require the application to be noted in the minutes of the meeting, prior to submitting it to the state Education Commissioner for approval. The bill also included other stipulations for school closures, including ensuring that they would not result in the segregation of students based on certain factors.
“This veto is troubling, and it shows the Governor’s lack of regard for any real public involvement in communities like Newark,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “The state should not be able to just come into a school district and reorganize it as it pleases, without the input of parents and the community. In the end, decisions like school closures have a major effect on students and parents. Any decisions should be made in full public view and with the involvement of those who are truly affected by the decision, not by some bureaucrat in Trenton. Parents should be afforded the opportunity to ask questions, to understand the proposal and what it will mean for their children, just as the process provides for in other public school districts in the state.”
The bill was prompted by a proposal in the Newark Public Schools to reorganize the district including shuttering some schools. Newark is currently under state control and the district superintendent is state-appointed and state-approved. The local school district has an Advisory Board whose decisions are not binding on the state-appointed superintendent.
“By vetoing this legislation, the governor is shutting out of the process the very people who have the greatest interest in the success of a school district – parents, their children and community members,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer and Hunterdon). “This is especially disconcerting because while the bill was prompted by concerns with a school closure plan in Newark, it threatens public involvement in all state-controlled districts as well as other districts in which the state may become involved in the future. Quite frankly, it is Newark today and could be another school district tomorrow. This would have created a uniform policy for school closures that provides transparency and inclusion across the board. Instead, we will continue to have a policy on the books that allows for these critical decisions to be made without public involvement.”