Taking Back Our Schools | Paterson Times

Taking Back Our Schools


A promising new bill has been introduced into the New Jersey State Senate that, if passed, would free the Paterson School District from the meddling hands of the State.

Legislation introduced by Senator Ronald Rice of Essex County — who in September appealed to the federal government to intervene with the situation — and Nellie Pou of North Haledon seeks to set a 5 year limit over State control which means the State may only keep control of a district for no more than five years to complete a turn around.

For the past 21 years the Paterson School District has been controlled from Trenton by the Department of Education which some say, has failed in its task to remedy the failing schools. Christopher Irving, the president of Paterson School Board, forcefully asserts that the DOE has made the situation worse: “21 years ago the state of New Jersey came into the city of Paterson to ‘change what was wrong’ on a temporary basis and to fix just a handful of schools that were struggling. Now moving 21 years later, more than 80% of our schools are failing.”

The elected Members of the Board of Education have little or no say in big decisions for the district which has lead some to aver that despite local taxation which goes towards funding the schools the tax payers seem to have no say in decisions relating to the education of their children. Some say, that is effectively “taxation without representation”.

If the new bill is passed it would at once result in the State handover of schools it controlled for decades over to local control.

In 2005, the Lexington Institute, a think tank, in a report declared: State control of schools has failed to help Paterson, New Jersey children.

It seems the state has indeed failed in its mission to better educate the children of Paterson; it had more than two decades to make the requisite changes to improve test scores and bring subpar schools up to standard — the city has 6 of the lowest performing schools in the state — without much success.

It would do no harm to pass the schools to the locals and see if they can do any better; so far there has been little actual improvement in the performance of Paterson schools, those that are touted are tainted with all sorts of sneaky tactics employed by officials.

It is high time the State ended its, as James Harris, of the NAACP said, “occupation” of Paterson schools.