By Dave Warner
March 25 Governor Chris Christie said on Monday
the 12,000-student Camden school system is "undeniably broken"
and made it the fourth in New Jersey to be brought under state
A poor city with one of the nation's highest homicide rates,
Camden receives so much special state aid that it spends more
than most municipalities on its students - $23,709 per student
in the 2011-12 year compared with a statewide average of
$18,045, Christie said. The low student-to-teacher ratio of 9 to
1 also is among the most enviable in the state.
Still, Camden has one of the worst graduation rates in the
state - 49 percent in 2012, a full 37 points below the state
average, Christie said. In addition, 23 of the city's 26 schools
are in the bottom 5 percent of performance in the state.
"While there are some great teachers and educators in
Camden, the system itself has proven undeniably broken and
incapable of change on its own," Christie said.
The state will take over Camden's school system before the
start of the new school year in September, choosing a new
superintendent and leadership team.
While it is the fourth school system to come under state
control, it is the first one to so under Christie, who
frequently has been at odds with New Jersey teachers. The other
state-run districts are Paterson, Jersey City and Newark.
Having four districts under state control is unusual,
although California, the largest U.S. state, has imposed control
over eight districts at one time or another, said a spokeswoman
for the Education Commission of the States.
Barbara Keshishian, president of the New Jersey Education
Association, which represents teachers, did not oppose the move
by Christie in Camden, but said: "The track record for state-run
districts has been questionable at best, and NJEA will withhold
judgment on the Camden takeover model until we see the details."
The state Department of Education said there is no set time
frame for how long the state would retain control in Camden, and
that it would be based on progress.
U.S. Census Bureau figures show more than 38 percent of
Camden's 77,000 residents were below the poverty line from 2007