Newark City Councilman Ras Baraka won the city's mayoral election last week with education as a main campaign platform. A former high school principal and the son of famous poet and civil rights activist Amiri Baraka, Ras Baraka won the election by some 8 percentage points despite being heavily outspent.
As part of his campaign, Ras Baraka's stance on institutional racism was strong in regards to Newark's public schools, reports Reivin Johnson for Liberty Voice. The anti-poverty non-profit called Solid Ground explains the word institutional racism as meaning, "the systemic distribution of resources, power and opportunity in our society to the benefit of people who are white and the exclusion of people of color."
Prior to the election of Baraka, school district members began to try to change racism in Newark's public school system with the One Newark plan. One Newark was enforced by Cami Anderson, who is the Newark Schools Superintendent. However, in the midst of the election, Baraka did not show much interest in supporting it, says Johnson. One Newark's website claims that racial equity is one of its priorities.
"Our students with the greatest challenges – from the poorest homes, with disabilities, English language learners and those involved with the court system – will be served with excellent schools first, not last."
Baraka has dedicated himself to transforming the failing Newark school system. His plan includes showing that the school system's failure is partially due to racism, reports Johnson. Baraka has seen first hand how the city's school system works due to his time as Newark's Central High School's principal. His educational plan claims that an anti-racist approach will pave the way for his term as mayor:
"If all of our children are going to succeed in school we must leverage every resource to uproot the pattern of racial inequality that continue to harm all of our residents, particularly families and children."
During his campaign before the elections, Mr. Baraka's support system ran ads casting his rival Shavar Jeffries, who is also a Democrat, as the hand of the governor and Wall Street groups. Th ads claimed that he upheld the idea of more charter schools and that they had donated lavishly to him, reports Mark Nagle of The New York Times.
Charter schools are very popular in Newark, where one in five students is enrolled in one. Much of the local anger has been directed at Cami Anderson, the school superintendent, over her idea that would have closed some city schools and taken the spotlight off of the open ones by promoting charter schools.
Barak won the election with about 53% of the vote writes Kirsten West Salavi for NewsOne. Baraka made education an integral part of his platform. He used to serve as principal of Central High School, as well as being a councilman.