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State Takeover Of Schools a Last Resort, Assemblyman Says

Last week, Gov. Chris Christie announced that the state is planning to take over of the Camden school district.

Camden High School
Camden High School (www.camdenhs.org)

Camden joins Jersey City, Newark and Paterson as troubled urban school districts under state control.

The chairman of the Assembly Education Committee acknowledges the Camden district needs the help, but he also feels state takeovers should be the final option in other districts.

“I think a better way to go is try and make an inclusive, all-out effort to reform as opposed to take over,” explains Assemblyman Pat Diegnan. “If it becomes an adversarial process it’s never going to be successful. If it becomes an inclusive process I’m hopeful that it will be successful.”

The Christie Administration says once the Camden take over is approved, the Administration, through a new state-appointed superintendent and leadership team, in coordination with local and community leaders, will be taking direct oversight in implementing the necessary reforms of the school district to start delivering better results for Camden students and their families.

In theory, Camden would regain control of the school district once significant improvement is shown, but Diegnan says there’s the rub.

“Bring the expertise of the state in to, if nothing else, help the district, guide the district (and) give direction to the district, absolutely,” says Diegnan, “Then there is the continuing quandary; when does the state control end?”

The ultimate goal of the Camden take over, says Christie is to improve outcomes for students by providing families with greater opportunities to an array of quality educational options.

Governor Christie believes that New Jersey has a moral obligation to provide every child with access to a high-quality education, and that the state simply cannot continue to sit on the sidelines as this fundamental promise goes unfulfilled for so many children in Camden.

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