Expelling Public Schools

How Antiracist Politics Enable School Privatization in Newark

2023
Author:

John Arena

Exploring the role of identitarian politics in the privatization of Newark’s public school system

Examining the more than two-decade struggle to privatize public schools in Newark, New Jersey—a conflict that is raging in cities across the country—Expelling Public Schools is a critique of Black urban regime politics and the way in which antiracist messaging obscures real class divisions, interests, and ideological diversity.

In Expelling Public Schools, John Arena examines the more than two-decade struggle to privatize public schools in Newark, New Jersey—a conflict that is raging in cities across the country—from the vantage point of elites advancing the pro-privatization agenda and their grassroots challengers.

Analyzing the unsuccessful effort of Cory Booker (Newark’s leading pro-privatization activist and mayor) to generate popular support for the agenda, and Booker’s rival and ultimate successor Ras Baraka’s eventual galvanization of the charter movement, Arena argues that Baraka’s Black radical politics cloaked a revanchist agenda of privatization.

Expelling Public Schools reveals the political rise of Booker and Baraka, their one-time rivalry and subsequent alliance, and what this particular case study illuminates about contemporary post–civil rights Black politics. Ultimately, Expelling Public Schools is a critique of Black urban regime politics and the way in which antiracist messaging obscures real class divisions, interests, and ideological diversity.

John Arena is associate professor of sociology at CUNY’s College of Staten Island and author of Driven from New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization (Minnesota, 2012).

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