CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Parents and educators are concerned over a plan by the Camden School District to close two schools and another classroom building. The plan follows a drop in state aid.
Since the State of New Jersey took over Camden schools in 2013, there has been a steady exodus of students from public schools to charter and renaissance schools. Local activists say the new possible school closings reek of more privatizing education.
“Some parents still believe in traditional public and we need to keep our public schools open,” community activist Vida Neil said.
Talk of closing several Camden public schools to fix a budget shortfall has community leaders crying foul. On Tuesday, the Camden teacher’s union told Eyewitness News they’ve been informed two schools and an annex used for preschool may close at the end of the school year due to a $27 million shortage in supplemental state aid.
They say that means about 900 students could be looking for a new school and as many as 300 staff members could be out of a job.
“We demand a freeze on all and any school closures and staff layoffs,” Camden Pastor Amir Kahn said.
Local activists met with district administration Wednesday, demanding the schools stay open, and calling for an investigation into what they believe is a suspicious trend of Camden public schools closing while new charter and renaissance schools pop up.
“The state is allowing this to happen and segregate our children and that’s a problem,” Neil said. “The schools that they want to shut down, they strategically shut them down in the area to force the parents to take them to a charter school.”
Since 2016, the NAACP has called for a moratorium on charter school expansion and greater oversight.
“One of the things that we are concerned about is that money is constantly going to renaissance and charter schools but our public schools are being neglected,” Camden County NAACP President Kevin Barfield said.
Camden School District Acting State Superintendent Katrina McCombs responded in a statement Wednesday.
“Even if we close our budget gap for next year, it wouldn’t be enough to solve the long-term enrollment and facilities issues our schools face,” McCombs said. “In order to keep resources in the hands of teachers and students, we must make changes for next year.”