Poll: Newark voters support charter schools, worry about funding

Welcome to Chalkbeat Newark's weekly newsletter! Today, we have the results of a new education-focused poll of Newark voters, an update on lead testing, and much more. Enjoy!

— Patrick Wall, senior reporter

The big story

Nearly two-thirds of Newark voters believe that “public charter schools are an important part of the public school landscape in Newark.”

That’s one of the key findings of a new online poll conducted in early September. The poll was commissioned by a Newark-based advocacy group that backs charter schools and promotes district-charter cooperation.

Experts said they were not surprised by the apparent support for charters in Newark. National polls have found that black and Hispanic Democrats — who make up the majority of the city’s electorate — are more likely than white Democrats to approve of charters. And people who live in districts like Newark that have many charter schools are more likely to support them.

The poll comes as some national Democrats — including the leading presidential candidates — call for more restrictions on some charter schools. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered a review of the state’s charter policies.

The poll brought some other interesting results as well. 

Respondents said “lack of funding” was the biggest problem facing Newark schools. They approved of the new teachers contract. And a majority of respondents said they had not heard of Superintendent Roger León. 

But there was some good news for León: Among respondents who had heard of him, 18% held favorable views of the superintendent, compared with just 7% who held unfavorable views.

Read the full story.

What to watch

What else is happening around Newark schools.

Newark district tests school water for lead — but hasn’t released results

  • What to know: Newark district officials say schools’ water is regularly tested for lead and safe to drink. However, the results of recent tests have not been made public.
  • The district conducts water-quality tests at a subset of schools every month, an official said at a recent board meeting.
  • The assurances come as the city deals with the fallout of tests this summer that found elevated lead levels at two homes using water filters. More recent tests found that 97% of home filters are working as expected.
  • At a recent panel discussion, Mayor Ras Baraka said the city has to “do better” about getting the public information about water safety, including in schools: “If you give people the facts, they’re able to decide what the right thing is.” (Baraka will host a town hall meeting about water quality on Wednesday.)
  • Superintendent Roger León, who was also on the panel, agreed: “At the heart of the problem was confusion.”
  • However, the district has not released the results of the recent lead tests — despite calls by a former school board member for the district to provide monthly updates on the results.
  • Chalkbeat has filed a public-records request for the results and is awaiting a response.
  • One big question: If officials are interested in clearing up any confusion, why not publish the water-quality test results?

News from Trenton & beyond

Reporting on statewide education issues that matter for Newark. 

Testing debate…

  • An influential state senator says she opposes the Murphy administration’s plan to eliminate tests that students currently take in 10th grade. NJ Spotlight

Water safety…

  • State lawmakers offered more than 30 possible ways to track and remove lead from the water in schools and homes — yet only one measure became law.

Sexual assault awareness…

  • A state lawmakers discussed a new law that requires schools to teach age-appropriate lessons about sexual abuse and assault awareness. NJTV

Booker brother…

  • The brother of U.S. Senator Cory Booker said it’s “not true” family connections helped him land a $150,000 job in New Jersey’s Department of Education.

National honors…

  • Nine New Jersey schools districts were recently named National Blue Ribbon Schools, one of the highest honors given by the U.S. education department.

Teacher diversity…

  • Opinion: The vice president of an education nonprofit cites research showing the positive impact that teachers of color can have on black and Hispanic students.

National news…

  • Private schools play a disproportionate role in segregating American schoolchildren by race, according to a new analysis. Chalkbeat

Extra credit

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

PHOTO: Devna Bose/Chalkbeat
At Schools That Can-Newark’s 4th Annual Design Day last week, teams of Newark middle schoolers tackled a real-life design challenge: Newark’s Mulberry Commons park expansion. Their ideas — including filtered water fountains, concert stages, and soccer fields — were presented to industry experts.