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New Jersey Education Officials Loosen Grip on State-Controlled District

The New Jersey Board of Education has voted unanimously to return more control of Jersey City's public school system back to the local school board after more than a quarter century of state oversight.

The panel supported state Education Commissioner David Hespe's recommendation to return control of Jersey City's personnel and operations departments back to the local school board. The state had previously given the local board control of school governance and finance.

"This has been a long time coming, but we're seeing the kind of success that is pointing toward a new beginning for the community," Hespe said in a statement.

The state board also agreed to form a working group to determine how to return authority over the remaining area—"instruction and programming"—to the district by as early as the end of the 2015-16 school year, a state department of education news release indicated.

The state took over Jersey City's school district in 1989, citing "total educational failure." It was the first school system taken over by New Jersey's state government, which later took control of Newark and Paterson schools for similar failures.

In announcing the deal, Hespe pointed to a number of recent improvements including the addition of a districtwide strategic plan, more technology use in schools, and a decline in dropout and suspension rates. The district is home to about 29,000 students.

"Everybody in the community understands enormous challenges remain, such as tight budgets, high poverty rates among families, aging facilities and a lack of space for preschool programs," Hespe said.

The push toward local control in Jersey City follows Gov. Chris Christie's move to return the Newark school system to local governance by the end of the 2015-16 school year. That school system has been under state control since 1995.

Here are links to some of Education Week's coverage of the Jersey City schools takeover.

Jersey City Seeks to Block State's Attempted School Takeover

Board in New Jersey Completes Takeover of Troubled District

One Year After Takeover by State, Cautious Optimism in Jersey City

N.J. Plans to End Takeover in Jersey City

New Jersey Districts Chafe Under State Control

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