In Camden, Christie pushes school transformation idea

New Jersey has struggled for years to turn around its urban public schools.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was in Camden today to push his latest idea to turn the tide: He wants to let private companies run five chronically failing New Jersey schools.

The schools will be in various districts that agree to take part in the program.

Christie said it’s time to act because schools across New Jersey are in crisis:”It is unacceptable to me to have children in this city and in other cities across New Jersey continue to be consigned to failure factories that we have neither the will nor the guts to stand up and fight to stop it.”Christie said public-private partnerships can help turn around education, and he’s not afraid to turn to the private sector for help:”There are folks in the private sector who are always interested in trying to help transform schools.  Whether it’s in the charter school movement or the private and parochial school movement, there are folks in the private sector all the time who are offering ideas to us.  And we solicit those ideas.”Christie said he believes people in Camden care more about getting results than about political affiliation.Camden Mayor Dana Redd, a Democrat, stood beside Christie, a Republican, at the announcement outside Lanning Square Elementary School, in a neighborhood full of boarded-up, graffiti-laced buildings.  “What the Governor has presented here today,” Redd said, “is another solution to how we can achieve outcomes that are academic outcomes for our urban youth, again, preparing them for the global economy.”Christie and other supporters said the pilot project will give communities more of a choice, without sacrificing local control. The five Transformation Schools would be placed in districts where local boards of education have signed on.  Not everyone is sold on the public-private partnership proposal.Camden Board of Education President Susan Dunbar-Bey said she’s waiting to hear more before she takes a stance: “We’re gonna explore it.  Personally, I’m an advocate for children and I’m open to all ideas that make sure our children get the best education they can get.”

Across the river in Philadelphia, private and non-profit management companies have been invited in to run traditional public schools and charter schools for years under a joint city-state agreement that gives the state more say in the running of Philadelphia schools.

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