John ArenaOct 9, 2023
Expelling Public Schools
How Antiracist Politics Enable School Privatization in Newark
University of Minnesota Press 2023
Exploring the role of identitarian politics in the privatization of Newark’s public school system In Expelling Public Schools, John Arena explores 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.
John Arena's book Expelling Public Schools: How Antiracist Politics Enable School Privatization in Newark (U Minnesota Press, 2023) 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.
Laura Beth Kelly is an assistant professor of Educational Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.