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APPELLATE DECISION AFFIRMS COMMISSIONER’S DECISION NOT TO RETURN LOCAL CONTROL TO NEWARK ADVISORY BOARD

July 8, 2013

In a decision issued today, a three judge panel in the Appellate Division of NJ Superior Court affirmed Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf's July 2011 decision not to return local control of personnel and governance to the Newark Advisory Board and dismissed the appellant’s claim related to fiscal management. 

The court decision was the final step in consolidated appeals, filed by private attorney Clifford G. (Greg) Stewart on behalf of the Newark Advisory Board, and by the Education Law Center on behalf of a coalition of community members, contending that Commissioner Cerf violated State law by failing to withdraw from the areas of governance, personnel and fiscal management after the Newark school district, in July 2011, received high marks on a required three-year comprehensive review.

The law at issue, adopted in 2007, created the Quality Single Accountability Continuum, or “QSAC.” In addition to establishing a statewide district accountability system, the law was designed to create a pathway for the three state-operated districts to regain local control by setting clear standards in five separate functional areas – governance, fiscal management, personnel, operations, and curriculum and instruction.

The QSAC law was used in 2007 by then Commissioner Lucille Davy and the State Board of Education to return governance and fiscal management to the control of the Jersey City school district and operations to the control of the Newark school district, which has been under State control for 18 years. Commissioner Cerf’s perceived refusal to follow the statutory guidelines in 2011, after Newark achieved the required benchmarks in three additional areas, led to the filing of the lawsuit.

“We are very disappointed with this outcome,” said Mr. Stewart. “This decision gives the Commissioner almost complete discretion over whether to return local control in any QSAC area, even when a district clearly demonstrates satisfaction of the QSAC performance indicators.”

“We strongly encourage the Newark Advisory Board to continue to push for full restoration of local control,” said David Sciarra, ELC’s Executive Director. “The decision also points out the need for the Legislature to amend the QSAC statute to put in place clear, unequivocal standards for when the State must withdraw from local control.”  

The claim related to fiscal management was dismissed by the court because the State announced it would agree to initiate withdrawal of that area during oral argument in June. While the return of fiscal management is welcome, it should be noted that until governance is returned, State District Superintendent Cami Anderson, appointed by Commissioner Cerf, retains the authority to veto any decisions of the Newark Advisory Board, even in those areas in which local control has been returned.

 

Related Stories:

ELC’S LAWSUIT LEADS STATE TO RETURN CONTROL OF FISCAL MANAGEMENT TO NEWARK ADVISORY BOARD

COURT REFUSES TO DISMISS NEWARK LOCAL CONTROL APPEAL 

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24