Meet the special-interest group pouring money into Newark’s school board race

Welcome to Chalkbeat Newark's weekly newsletter! Read about the outside money flowing into Newark's board race, an enrollment-decision delay, and much more.

Programming note: The newsletter will be off next week while Newark Public Schools are on break.

— Patrick Wall, senior reporter

The big story

A group with charter school ties has spent tens of thousands of dollars inundating Newark voters with phone calls, flyers, and home visits ahead of Tuesday’s school board election.

Called Great Schools for All PAC, the special-interest group has so far outspent any of the individual candidates or their campaign committees, according to public filings analyzed by Chalkbeat.

Great Schools for All is an “independent expenditure” group that can raise and spend unlimited amounts in elections, but cannot coordinate with the candidates it supports.

The group has thrown its weight behind the three candidates on the Moving Newark Schools Forward team, which is backed by the mayor and local politicians and whose message includes calling for unity between the city’s district-run and charter schools.

The group’s chairman is a former charter school official and its donors include the political arm of a group that wants to expand charter schools across the country and another group co-founded by a charter school board member.

The group has already reported spending $46,000 in this election, though final expenditure amounts won’t be reported until after the election. Last year, it spent $147,000 on the board race — far more than any other group or candidate.

Read the full story here.

What to watch

What else is happening around Newark schools.

District delays telling students which schools they’ll attend next year

  • What to know: The Newark school district will not send letters to families on Monday as planned letting them know what schools their children will attend in the fall, according to a notice on the district’s enrollment website.
  • The notice said the letters are delayed but that the district is “working diligently” to finalize them.
  • Families with children entering new schools, including incoming kindergarteners and ninth graders, had until Feb. 15 to apply to schools for next academic year.
  • After the district used a computer program to match students with schools, it planned to inform families of the matches on April 15.
  • A district spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday about the delay.
  • The delay follows several changes to the enrollment system under the district’s new superintendent, including a new magnet school admissions test which had to be postponed for a month earlier this year.
  • Check our site later today for a story about the match letter delay.

Newark news & events

Local education reporting and upcoming events.

Cory 2020…

  • Thousands of people attended a rally Saturday in Newark where U.S. senator and former Newark mayor Cory Booker made a case for why he should be the Democratic presidential nominee. TAPinto Newark, NJ.com, Politico NJ, New York Times
  • While Booker didn’t say much about education in his speech, he did dig into the topic in this interview. The Root

Future tech workers…

  • A new program in downtown Newark will offer residents free training to prepare them for careers in technology. TAPinto Newark

Future engineers…

  • Newark Public Schools and several KIPP New Jersey charter schools will receive $10,000 grants from Amazon and another group to support school robotics programs. TAPinto Newark

Budget question…

  • Before Newark voters on decide on Tuesday whether to approve a tax hike to support Newark schools, here’s what you need to know about the budget. TAPinto Newark, Chalkbeat

News from Trenton & beyond

Reporting on statewide education issues that matter for Newark.

State tests…

  • The state’s education commissioner told lawmakers last week that his department is still working on a new testing regime. NJ Spotlight

District consolidation…

  • A plan to consolidate some of the state’s nearly 600 school districts could cut down on costs and lead to greater involvement on local school boards, experts say. Press of Atlantic City

School breakfast…

  • A Newark charter school was among the schools statewide with the highest rates of students in 2018 who were eligible for subsidized breakfasts but did not receive them. NJ Spotlight

Children’s health insurance…

  • State lawmakers hope to expand health insurance coverage among children, including some 78,000 young New Jerseyans who are uninsured. NJ Spotlight

National news…

  • Two new studies paint a divergent picture of whether teachers unions contribute to better schools. Chalkbeat

Extra credit

Want to showcase your school or an upcoming education event? Send me photos and details.

Don’t forget to register for the national Schools That Can Forum, which will take place in Newark from April 30-May 1.