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New Education Reform Group Ready to Go Public, Targets Parental Involvement

Funding comes from charter school organization, while supporters include U.S. senator and two prominent state senators

parent power

A new pro-reform education advocacy group is about to go public, with backing from some prominent names in New Jersey school policy and funding from a group that supports charter schools.

The Parent Coalition for Excellent Education will formally launch this week, announcing a campaign to engage families that may be left out of the polarizing debate in cities like Newark and Camden between supporters of district and charter schools.

The group is led by Muhammed Akil, the former chief of staff to Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, an outspoken reform voice who is expected to be a candidate for governor in 2017.

According to its planned announcement, the group also has the backing of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker; state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, who heads the state Senate education committee; and state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, who heads the state Senate higher education committee.

The group has been in the works for months, but it has raised its profile in recent weeks, including at last week’s annual N.J. League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City.

Joining a crowded field of advocacy groups in the state, the group clearly has a pro-reform slant, and one centered on Newark. The organization is at least in part funded by the Newark Charter School Fund, a significant money source for the charter movement in the city and one that is stepping up its public presence.

“The current system in New Jersey is not providing all our children with a quality education,” Akil said in the planned announcement, provided in advance to NJ Spotlight.

“Our parents are not happy. Our communities are not being served. This has gone on for too long. We must do better and we begin by providing a stronger voice to each of our state’s parents.”

When asked if there are other funders behind the group, the organization’s communications director, Matthew Frankel, would not name names but said its support will be broad-based.

Mashea Ashton, executive director of the Newark Charter School Fund, said the advocacy group will carry forward the fund’s mission.

"The Newark Charter School Fund has provided initial funding because we believe all parents - in every community - should be involved and represented in the education debate,” Ashton said.

“The stronger the voice of parents, the better our education system will be for kids.”

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