Mayor Cory Booker is fighting a battle for Newark, writes Steven Malanga. Booker can’t lure middle-class people back to the city if he can’t do something about the “atrocious” school system. The state, which took control in 1994 to stem mismanagement and corruption, “has poured billions of dollars into the cityâ€™s schools, so that Newark now spends nearly $17,000 per pupil a year â€” about 75 percent more than the national average.”
Yet the money has done little good, since the state has pursued few educational innovations and hasnâ€™t taken on entrenched educational interests (above all, the teachersâ€™ union), which still control much of the system. Student performance has continued to plummet. . . . E3 executive director Dan Gaby bluntly describes the system as â€œin crisis,â€ estimating that it spends an astonishing $1.3 million for every qualified student it manages to graduate from high school.
Booker hopes to take control of the system, appoint a strong chancellor and expand school choice. Reforms include:
. . . closing and replacing chronically failing schools (Newark has some 30 of them), letting parents choose which schools within the system to send their kids to, and inviting more operators of successful private schools into the city to run charter schools. â€œI have stopped going to lotteries for admission to charter schools because I was so saddened to see parents who have run out of options for their children,â€ Booker says.
Booker has thrown his weight behind a state bill, sponsored by Democratic legislators, that gives tax credits to companies that contribute to a scholarship fund for Newark students who want to attend private schools or jump to public schools in better-performing districts.
Of course, the teachers’ union strongly opposes the tax-credit idea. Keep kids in a system that can’t provide a decent education for $17,000 a year.