When Newark public school students return to class this Thursday, some children will be missing their first day. A local parents’ group announced last week that some 600 parents have pledged to keep their children out of classes to protest the district’s sweeping new reform plan, One Newark. Campaign leaders have described the boycott as move of desperation for a community that has felt steamrolled by the high-powered reform agenda and the state control that has governed their schools for two decades.
One Newark has been billed as a massive overhaul of the struggling school system. Under the plan, which was approved last December, the district will close, phase out or reformulate roughly one-third of its schools. Students will no longer be assigned to their neighborhood schools. Instead, a complex algorithm will match families with schools of their choice across the district.
The plan, which focuses elementary and middle schools,has had a rough rollout over the past couple of weeks. Parents who were invited to register their children for school have waited in line for hours, CBS reported. New Jersey’s News 12 found a family with five children who were assigned to five different schools.
"The superintendent announced this plan as an opportunity of choice, but what it’s turning out to be is an opportunity of chance," says Sharon Smith, a co-founder of Parents United for Local School Education (PULSE). "At some point parents don’t have a chance to get into their schools of choice, or even into a school at all."
The boycott is only the latest battle in a long-running feud that pits teachers’ unions and progressive education advocates aga