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Debates in Camden Continue -- But Is Anybody Listening to the Community?

Urban Hope Act comes up for final vote next week, could open way to further charter-school expansion in that city


Camden Mayor Redd
Credit: Governor's Office/Tim Larsen
Camden Mayor Dana Redd with Gov. Chris Christie and former Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf at the announcement of the state's takeover of the school district.

Camden schools continue in the cross-hairs of debate this week, as Gov. Chris Christie pays another visit today and the Legislature looks ready to extend a controversial law to open the district further to charter schools.

NJ Spotlight’s John Mooney spoke with WNYC Public Radio’s Amy Eddings yesterday about the many developments concerning the state-operated district, including questions as to whether new community protests about Christie’s reform efforts are starting to have an impact.

That has hardly evident among the state’s politicians, as Christie is set for an afternoon visit to both a new charter school in the district and Camden High School’s varsity football team.

Meanwhile, the state Assembly yesterday posted a bill for final vote next week that would extend for another year the Urban Hope Act, a 2012 law that opened the way for large charter networks to set up shop in the district. Three charter organizations have already been approved, with plans to open as many as 15 new schools.

The bill was already approved once, but saw a conditional veto by Christie over a provision for early-retirement incentives for Camden teachers. The Senate approved the changes earlier this week by a 32-1 vote.

The prime sponsor of the bill in the Assembly, Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), said yesterday that it was important that the bill still win approval.

“While I remain disappointed that Gov. Christie conditionally vetoed the revisions to the Urban Hope Act presented to him by the Legislature, I am committed to ensuring that the children of Camden have first-class facilities to nurture their educational growth,” he said. “This proposal will move Camden forward towards that goal.”

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