Charter school advocates helped pour $97,000 into Newark school board race

Welcome to Chalkbeat Newark's weekly newsletter! Read about outside money that flowed into Newark's school board race, efforts to recruit more men of color teachers, and much more.

— Patrick Wall, senior reporter

The big story

Newark school board election

We already knew that a group backed by charter school advocates spent heavily on Newark’s recent school board election. Now we know how heavily.

The group, called Great Schools for All PAC, spent more than $97,000 supporting the three winning candidates in last month’s election. The group was the biggest spender in the race by a wide margin.

The bulk of its money came from a national organization that wants to help spread charter schools and give district-run schools more autonomy. A small but notable donation came from Doris Fisher, a co-founder of the Gap clothing company who has long supported charter schools.

The group threw its weight behind a team of three candidates who were backed by the mayor and other elected officials. The team, called Moving Newark Schools Forward, also raised its own money. The team spent about $27,000 of the money it raised, much of which came from political committees tied to Mayor Ras Baraka and other politicians.

As an “independent expenditure” group, Great Schools for All does not have to reveal its donors. It voluntarily did so in its campaign filings — though the source of some of its money remains a mystery.

State lawmakers passed a bill that would force groups like Great Schools for All to reveal their top donors. On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed the bill, saying he wanted to strengthen the bills’ requirements and close loopholes.

Read the full story here.

What to watch

What else is happening around Newark schools.

N.J. steps up efforts to recruit more men of color as teachers

  • What to know: Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill Friday creating a small pilot project that will recruit men of color to become teachers through an alternative-certification program.
  • The state education department will then place the new teachers in classrooms in six low-performing schools.
  • Like most states, New Jersey’s teaching force does not reflect the diversity of its students: Just 16 percent of N.J. teachers and administrators are people of color, compared to 56 percent of students.
  • Newark has a similar racial gap: About 57 percent of teachers last school year were black or Hispanic, compared to more than 89 percent of students.
  • In addition to the pilot program, the state has also given grants to two universities to help K-12 schools diversify their teaching corps.
  • In Newark, Montclair State University is partnering with the district to create a new academy at East Side High School where students will take the first steps to become teachers.
  • One big question: Will these small efforts be enough to make a dent in the state’s shortage of non-white teachers?

Newark news & events

Local education reporting and upcoming events.

Repairs needed…

  • Water entering through faulty roofs is causing damage to schools across the city, a recent audit found. TAPinto Newark

Prayers answered…

  • A local church has pledged $10,000 to Quitman Street Community School to help pay for supplies so teachers don’t have to buy them. NJTV

South Ward reads…

  • The BRICK Education Network is placing some 1,500 free books in schools, beauty shops, and laundromats across the South Ward to foster reading among children and families. TAPinto Newark

Local talent…

  • The Newark Board of Education Gospel Choir, which includes 72 district employees, competed in the McDonald’s Gospelfest in Newark last weekend — the first public-employee choir group to do so. Newark Patch

Youth prisons…

  • Op-Ed: A criminal justice reform advocate, and former Head Start teacher, argues that the state should not build a new youth prison in Newark; instead, the money should be invested in social services for young people. NJ Spotlight

Character education…

  • A Newark teacher argues that young children should be taught to develop attributes like fairness and empathy, which will help prepare them for when they eventually encounter racism. Newark Patch

News from Trenton & beyond…

Reporting on statewide education issues that matter for Newark.

School funding battle…

  • To plug a $120 million budget gap that could result in hundreds of teacher layoffs, the Jersey City school board is considering selling buildings while also suing the state for more funding. NJ Spotlight
  • Hundreds of people packed into a school board meeting Monday night to protest the possible teacher and staff layoffs. NJ.com

Free college expansion …

  • The state is expanding a program that covers tuition costs at community colleges for low-income students, despite some lingering concerns from lawmakers. NJ Spotlight

Residency rules…

  • A N.J. teacher is challenging a state law that requires public employees to live in the state after her district moved to fire her for temporarily moving across the border to Pennsylvania. NJ.com

National news…

  • Advocates are calling for New York City to provide lead-exposed children with the same comprehensive evaluation that is now legally mandated in Flint, Michigan. Chalkbeat New York
  • The siblings and future offspring of low-income children who participate in preschool also enjoy long-term benefits, new research shows. Chalkbeat Colorado