University of Minnesota Press

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. Arena’s book Expelling Public Schools reveals the political rise of Cory Booker and Ras Baraka and what this particular case study illuminates about contemporary post-civil rights Black politics. Here, Arena is joined in conversation with David Forrest.

John (Jay) Arena is associate professor of sociology at CUNY’s College of Staten Island. Arena is author of Expelling Public Schools: How Antiracist Politics Enable School Privatization in Newark and Driven from New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization.

David Forrest is associate professor of politics at Oberlin College. He is author of A Voice but No Power: Organizing for Social Justice in Minneapolis.

Works and scholars referenced:
Adolph Reed Jr. (Stirrings in the Jug)
David M. Kotz (The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism)
Cedric Johnson
Frances Fox Piven (Challenging Authority)
Jane McAlevey (No Shortcuts)
Preston H. Smith II (Racial Democracy and the Black Metropolis)
Sharon Kurtz (Workplace Justice)
Marc Doussard and Greg Schrock (Justice at Work)
Kristen Buras (Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space)
Touré Reed (Toward Freedom)
Alf Gunvald Nilsen and Laurence Cox (We Make Our Own History)
Colin Barker, Laurence Cox, John Krinsky, and Alf Gunvald Nilsen, editors (Marxism and Social Movements)
Rosa Luxemburg (Rosa Luxemburg Speaks)
Chris Maisano (“What Does Revolution Mean in the 21st Century?”, Jacobin)
Mark R. Beissinger (The Revolutionary City)

People and organizations referenced:
Cory Booker
Chris Christie
Ras Baraka
Newark’s downtown Teachers Village complex
Sharpe James
Cami Anderson
Christopher Cerf
Randi Weingarten
Albert Shanker
Karen Lewis
Al Moussab
Newark Education Workers

This episode was recorded in September 2023.

Expelling Public Schools: How Antiracist Politics Enable School Privatization in Newark is available from University of Minnesota Press.

"Expelling Public Schools offers a fascinating look into the racial politics of corporate school reform in Newark Public Schools. John Arena takes a long view—just over two decades—and examines the reform movements and countermovements in the district from the top down and the bottom up. In assessing corporate school reform efforts under mayors Cory Booker and Ras Baraka, this deeply researched book illuminates the mechanisms that maintain educational inequality."
—Rand Quinn, author of Class Action: Desegregation and Diversity in San Francisco Schools

"It is rare to encounter a work that treats actually existing Black life, an approach best articulated by Cedric Johnson, to critically address contemporary Black urban regimes. Thoughtful, careful, and incisive, Expelling Public Schools does just that. In this moment when antiracism (and surface critiques of antiracism) is rife, John Arena’s work provides a wonderful tonic."
—Lester Spence, author of Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics

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