On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Education confirmed that it has opened an investigation into whether Newark, New Jersey’s school reform plans violate the civil rights of the city’s black students, Reuters reported. Civil rights groups, including the Journey for Justice Alliance and the Advancement Project, filed a complaint in May with the Department of Education alleging that school closures in Newark, New Orleans and Chicago have a unique and disparate impact on black and Latino students, who are vastly overrepresented among those who attend schools targeted with school closures plans in all three cities. Black students were 52.8 percent of Newark public school enrollment but 73.4 percent of those affected by school closures in the 2011 to 2012 school year. White students, meanwhile, were 7.9 percent of the district but just 1.1 percent of those whose schools were shuttered.
In Newark, the school reform plan One Newark is set to close 13 more public K-12 schools.
"Closing the doors of public schools is not the way to improve public schools," Sharon Smith, founder of Parents United for Local School Education said at a Wednesday press conference, the Star-Ledger reported.
The civil rights complaint was filed on the same week as the 60th anniversary of the landmark school desegregation Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.