Hi and welcome to Chalkbeat Newark’s first weekly newsletter!

I’m Patrick Wall, Chalkbeat Newark’s founding reporter and — as of last Saturday — a Newark resident. Over the past few days, I’ve met with a lot of folks who care about Newark’s schools, enjoyed the local cuisine with some new friends (thanks, Brick City Supper Club!), and hid out during my first Newark snowstorm. What a week!

A little about Chalkbeat before we go further: We’re nonpartisan journalists who report exclusively on public schools — because we care deeply about public education, and because we believe that shining a light on something is always a good way to make it stronger. I’ll be doing that here in Newark by writing regular news stories — like this first one we published, in partnership with NJ Spotlight — and also by sending you this newsletter every week.

My hope is to make this newsletter, and my reporting, a conversation. I want to hear your ideas for the people and schools whose stories deserve to be told. Think I should profile an amazing teacher or figure out what’s going on with a bewildering policy? (Or have a great restaurant recommendation?) Hit me up at pwall@chalkbeat.org.

And tell me in person! I’ll be holding regular “office hours” to meet up with you — the people who are deeply invested in Newark’s schools. The first edition is next Wednesday at the Springfield Branch library’s college fair. (Details here.)

Now, onto the news!

What to Watch

Important things to know about Newark schools right now.

  • March 13: Gov. Murphy releases his spending plan.
    What to know: Before he was elected, Gov. Phil Murphy vowed to “immediately” increase school spending to levels required by a decade-old law that has never been fully funded. Then the Republican-led tax overhaul in Washington hammered blue states like New Jersey. Now Murphy’s proposed revenue-booster — a “millionaire’s tax” — has become a much harder sell.
    One big question: How much will Murphy invest in education?
  • March 14: Students protest gun violence.
    What to know: Following the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month, students across the country plan to walk out of class next week. Their goal is to force Congress to take action to prevent gun violence. At least three Newark schools are registered to participate.
    One big question: How many Newark students will join in — and how will the district respond?
  • April 17: Newark holds a historic school board election.
    What to know: The race for three open seats on the Newark school board is just starting to heat up. It’s an especially big-deal election because the board just regained full control of the city’s schools after a state takeover that lasted 22 years. The Newark NAACP was scheduled to host a candidate forum this week, but it was moved to next Thursday due to the weather. The Newark Trust for Education will hold its own forum on April 3. (Details on that forum here.)
    One big question: Will this year’s higher stakes result in a bigger voter turnout than last year, when just 5 percent of eligible voters cast ballots?

Newark News

A roundup of the past week’s local education reporting.

Snow days…

  • Newark schools were closed Wednesday and Thursday after Mayor Ras Baraka declared a state of emergency ahead of the Nor’easter. NJ.com, TapInto Newark, Newark Patch

Cool opportunities for students…

  • Students from 10 Newark high schools are taking part in a five-month program run by the group Schools That Can Newark, which guides students through the hiring process and connects them with externships at local employers. TapInto Newark
  • More than 1,300 people participated in an “opportunity summit” at the Prudential Center last week that connected young black and Hispanic men with potential employers as part of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. NJ.com
  • St. Vincent’s Academy, an all-girls Catholic school whose student body has reflected Newark’s changing population over the years, is preparing to celebrate its 150-year anniversary. NJ.com

Charter schools unite…

  • Since 2010, the Newark Charter School Fund has organized monthly meetings of the city’s charter school leaders where they can discuss policies like universal enrollment and get practical advice on issues like board governance and teacher retention. TapInto Newark

Zuckerberg philanthropy watch…

  • Priscilla Chan and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who spurred a torrent of changes in the Newark school system with his $100 million gift in 2010, are now turning their focus to improving reading skills among young children. Boston Globe

NTU on local control…

  • Op-ed: The head of the Newark Teachers Union welcomes the return of local control, but says an independent audit should now be conducted of the deals and contracts made while the state controlled Newark’s schools for over two decades. NJ Spotlight

Question of the Week

Reply to this email with your answers. I’ll include the best one(s) in next week’s newsletter.

  • If you could nominate anyone to be on the Newark school board, who would you choose?

News from Trenton

Reporting on statewide education issues that matter for Newark.

Another plan to boost school funding…

  • State Senate President Steve Sweeney said Tuesday he wants to raise taxes on corporations that bring in more than $1 million in annual net income. He’d spend the revenue on state funding for special education, additional aid to underfunded school districts, and expanded preschool. Politico New Jersey, NJ Spotlight
  • In response, Gov. Phil Murphy said he saw “some appeal” in Sweeney’s plan, but he remains committed to his tax on millionaires. NJ.com

PARCC on life support…

  • Acting state Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said this week that he is committed to fulfilling Gov. Murphy’s vow to end the state’s use of the controversial PARCC exams. He announced an advisory group and listening tour to help come up with an alternative test. NJ Spotlight, NJ.com

What to do about walkouts…

  • As students across the country plan to walk out of class on Mar. 14 in a call for stricter gun laws, New Jersey school districts consider how to respond. NJ.com

Test scores…

  • See how every N.J. public high school scored on last year’s SATs. NJ.com

Diploma doubts…

  • Op-ed: Laura Waters writes that as New Jersey’s graduation rate reaches a new high of 90.5 percent, there are reasons to doubt whether it means that students are actually learning more. NJ Spotlight

Extra Credit

Want to showcase your school or an upcoming education event? Reply to this email with photos and details.

Newark Public Schools hosted community meetings this month to get feedback from the public on their hopes for the next district superintendent. Karen Gaylord facilitated a conversation at the meeting at Central High School.
(Photo Credit: Patrick Wall)

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