They say children’s education is suffering, future jeopardized
CAMDEN — The mothers of three students have asked the state Department of Education to find new schools outside the failing district immediately for their children.
Citing DOE studies and the comments of Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, the students’ lawyers assert that Camden schools are among the worst in the nation and students lose time in their academic life as long as they have to attend them.
“What do we do with children who we know are being deprived of their fundamental right to an education?” lawyer Patti Bombelyn said at a news conference in Trenton.
The DOE last spring said 23 of the city’s 26 schools are failing.
The parents filed a petition Monday with the state. They are seeking class-action standing.
Because the three students can’t jump ahead on charter school waiting lists — one city charter has a list of 500 students — class-action status would open the way for the district’s 12,000 students to transfer to public schools with unused capacity in the region, according to Bombelyn.
The petition was filed on behalf of students Keanu Vargas, 12, a seventh-grader at Pyne Poynt, Emmanuel Roldan, 9, a fourth-grader at Dudley Elementary, and Freddy Hernandez, a first-grader at Davis.
Emmanuel’s mother Maria said her son gets straight A’s, but she knows his education is suffering. “That’s like D’s at any other school,” she said.
Keanu’s mother Sandra said she fears that unless her son can be moved to another school, he’ll fall victim to the same fate as many other Camden High School graduates: Spending two years at community college taking remedial classes before getting to do college-level work.
Bombelyn said even top students at the district’s magnet high schools are performing on a low level. She pointed to one advanced student whose science experiment consisted of making an ice cream soda.
Her co-counsel, Julio Gomez, said the SAT scores of just one percent of the students taking the test show they are college ready.
As the result of a string of state Supreme Court decisions that have led to overhauls in state funding for schools in impoverished areas, districts such as Camden, Trenton and Newark are some of the best funded in the state. The per-student outlay is more than $20,000.
The petition concludes:
“No amount of money will ever compensate them for these losses, and the hardship they will bear will be certain, substantial and irreparable.
“Petitioner schoolchildren seek an immediate transfer and reassignment to a successful school outside their district. The relative hardships weigh strongly in favor of emergent relief for the petitioners.”
School district interim superintendent Reuben Mills, the city board of education’s lawyer and the DOE all declined to comment.
Groups supporting the filing include E3 (Excellent Education for Everyone), the Black Ministers’ Council of New Jersey, and the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey.
These groups also support a bill that would use public money to pay for scholarships for students in some state towns.
The money would be used to allow students in those towns attend private schools.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.