Following moves by the state of New Jersey to defund public schools in exchange for a flood of privately run charter schools, hundreds of students in Newark walked out of classes in protest on Thursday.
According to the Newark's Star Ledger, almost 1,000 students from about nine schools gathered in front of City Hall around 1 p.m. with microphones and signs.
The protest was organized by the Newark Students Union, calling the protest the “March of Shame," specifically targeting Superintendent Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” reorganization plan. The plan is set to close or downsize several public schools, fire a range of teachers, and move privately run charter schools into public buildings.
"Holding bullhorns and signs – some with the word 'liar' in bold letters above the silhouettes of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and state-appointed Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson – hundreds of middle and high school students walked out of schools and into the streets of this economically struggling city," Al Jazeera America reports.
"Newark students: stand up, fight back!" the students chanted throughout the rally.
"The Anderson administration is not afraid to take quality schools away but is scared of students engaging in their right," Newark Students Union president Kristin Towkaniek, told the crowd. "It's your right to be here."
“I’m walking out because the voices of the students need to be heard, and they will be heard,” said Towkaniuk ahead of the march.
“They said (the plan) will make Newark schools better,” Jose Leonard, a 16-year-old at Arts High School, told Al Jazeera America. “They’ve been saying that for 20 years and we haven’t seen anything. It’s like they don’t care about the students.”
The protest follows a growing trend in students putting their foot down in opposition to a countrywide trend of defunding public education.
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As Al Jazeera America reports:
In February, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett canceled his appearance at a Philadelphia public school after students and teachers at the school planned a protest over his budget cuts, which forced many of the city’s schools to cut all extracurricular activities. In Oklahoma, an estimated 25,000 converged on the capitol earlier this week to protest low school funding. Protests have also been held in Oregon and in Camden, N.J.
The protests in Newark aren’t new, either. Last year, high schools students formed the Newark Students Union and held a protest in the city’s downtown area, followed by another in March of this year.
“What’s happening in Newark follows a national pattern as we see states fund schools less than they did before the (2008) recession started,” said Jeff Bryant, a fellow the Campaign for America’s Future.
American Federation of Teachers New Jersey has video of the protest:
— Newark Student Union (@NewarkStudents) April 3, 2014