Gov. Chris Christie Thursday traveled to Camden to sign legislation that attempts to expand education options in failing schools and urban school districts and provide students with access to educational opportunities.
Christie was joined by Camden Mayor Dana Redd for the signing at the Lanning Square School, where on June 9 he and the mayor publicly announced the initiative aimed at providing greater school choice for students in the some of the worst performing districts in the state.
The new law allows three districts – Camden, Newark, and Trenton – to partner with one or more nonprofits to construct as many as four “renaissance schools” in each district. The nonprofits must have experience operating schools in low-achieving districts and commit to both building a new school and offering a rigorous academic program designed to prepare every student for college, career, and beyond.
“Last June, Mayor Redd and I announced an innovative public-private education project designed to turn around some of the most chronically failing schools,” Christie said. “Today, I am proud to sign the Urban Hope Act to finally give students and parents trapped in some of the state’s school districts with the largest achievement gaps, hope and opportunity for increased educational options that will lead to a successful and productive future. While renaissance schools are just one component of my administration’s aggressive educational reform agenda, there is more critical work that must be done this year to address the education challenges facing our state.”
Christie believes 100,000 children are trapped in nearly 200 chronically failing New Jersey schools. He also believes putting the opportunity of a quality education within every child’s reach, no matter where they live or their economic circumstances is an issue of vital importance to the future of the state.
The Urban Hope program is designed to target students with the greatest needs. The effort could involve after school programs or extracurricular activities, longer school days or years. The focus in the schools will be about getting results in the classroom through greater freedom and flexibility to adapt to the unique needs of students.
“Today’s signing of the Urban Hope Act is truly a victory for our young students,” Redd said. She added, “The Urban Hope Act will truly give the three urban school districts – Camden, Newark, and Trenton – hope and will offer young urban students a new academic opportunity. If we provide our children with the necessary tools like a solid education, safe learning environments, and clean and secure neighborhoods to grow up in, we are offering them a second chance to succeed in the ever changing global economy.”
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) said of the legislation, “The signing of this Democratic bill developed in cooperation with education experts represents a leap forward for New Jersey education reform. Democrats know education progress is best built through consensus, not confrontation, and will use this approach going forward.