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Newark To Regain Control of Its Schools After 22 Years Under State Authority

After nearly 25 years under some form of state control, leaders in Newark, N.J., will soon be able to fully run their schools.

The New Jersey state board of education on Wednesday approved two resolutions that start the process of returning control of the state's largest school system to the city. One of the resolutions gives the district control over governance and its instructional program. Newark already had the ability to make decisions about fiscal management, personnel, and operations—the three other areas the state uses to assess districts as part of its accountability system.

When the district will actually take full control is still unknown. It's uncharted territory for New Jersey, as it has never fully gone through the process of removing a district from state intervention. Earlier this summer, the state board of education passed two similar resolutions giving the Jersey City school system—the first school district that state officials took over—authority over instruction and program, the last remaining hurdle the district had to clear, along with a resolution on withdrawing the district from state intervention. New Jersey officials first took control of schools there in 1989.

Plans for both districts will spell out the steps necessary to complete their transitions and the dates each will take the reins. The districts will continue to be monitored by the state while the plans are being implemented. 

The state took over the Newark school district in 1995, after years of low test-scores, mismanagement, and political cronyism. School districts in Paterson and Camden remain under state intervention.

"As we hand over the reins to local control, I offer nothing but support and hope for the success of the district," Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement.

Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington said that as a result of the collaborative efforts between the city and the state, "Newark has made tremendous strides in the quality of education provided to their students and have the support system in place to sustain the positive progress."

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