NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- New Jersey's largest city is regaining control of its public schools after 22 years of state oversight.
The New Jersey Board of Education voted Wednesday to return control of the schools to Newark. The decision began a monthslong transition process to hand over the reins of the district to the locally elected school board.
The vote came several weeks after state Education Commissioner Kimberly Harrington supported the move following a performance review that demonstrated the district has made progress in improving performance.
The state has controlled Newark's public schools since 1995 because of academic underperformance and management and budget issues. State-appointed superintendents have had veto power over school board decisions.
After years of battles between state and local leaders, Newark schools have steadily improved. The city graduated a little more than 73 percent of its seniors two years ago, and when last year's numbers are out, officials believe it will be more like 77 percent. School superintendent Christopher Cerf praised the major milestone.
"Every year, more and more, and eventually all, of the 55,000 students who go to a public school in Newark, regardless of the circumstances of their lives, are delivered into adulthood prepared for success," he said. "Long before I ever got here or any of my predecessors got here, many in this community have made Herculean efforts, and many had enormous success with the students they served."
It's a cause Mayor Ras Baraka has championed for years.
"Schools and education is the probably the most important thing that the city has to do collectively," he said.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)