Three big questions hanging over Newark’s charter schools

Welcome to Chalkbeat Newark's weekly newsletter. I hope you had a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving. Today, we have a primer on Newark’s still-simmering debate over charter schools.

— Patrick Wall, senior reporter

The big story

With nearly 19,000 students attending charters schools, Newark is the charter capital of the state.

Yet when the state education department held a public forum in Newark last week as part of its “comprehensive review” of charter-school policy, only six people showed up. Soon enough, rumors were swirling about whether the low turnout was intentional.

The mini-controversy over the forum illustrates how contentious charter schools remain in Newark, even as they serve more than a third of city students.

Today, we bring you a guide to three of the biggest local debates over charter schools: Should they keep growing? What have they achieved? And do they get too much funding or not enough?

Read our explainer here.

What to watch

What else is happening around Newark schools.

Transparency tracker: Board members, public still waiting on superintendent’s goals for the year

  • What to know: As Roger León approaches his five-month mark as Newark’s new superintendent, board members and the public are still waiting to see his plan and goals for the district.
  • The desire for a clear roadmap flared up last month, and it was an undercurrent at last week’s school board meeting.
  • At the meeting, León said he intends to discuss his “Clarity 2020” plan for the district at a parent conference next month.
  • But board members have said they want to see a plan for 2018-19 — not 2020.
  • León also gave detailed stats about the district’s attendance rate, which is showing improvements. Still, some schools continue to struggle with absenteeism.
  • But the board’s student representative, Andre Ferreira, pressed León for more information about his plan to tackle absenteeism: “Despite all these stats, I don’t see what is causing the problem and how it’s going to be solved,” he said.
  • Meanwhile, some board members are continuing to abstain from voting on policy changes until they receive written goals from León.
  • One big question: When will Newarkers have clarity on León’s plan for 2018-19?

Newark news & events

Local education reporting and upcoming events.

Executive pay…

  • Christopher Cerf, Newark’s former state-appointed superintendent, was the eighth-highest paid public school employee in the state last year. NJ Spotlight

Higher office…

  • Sen. Cory Booker, who helped engineer an overhaul of the Newark school system when he was the city’s mayor, said he will “consider” running for president.


  • A Newark charter school is launching a fundraising campaign tied to “Giving Tuesday.” Brick City Live

Public meetings…

  • The school board’s monthly meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday at Dr. William Horton School.
  • “Success For the South Ward: What Does It Mean To You,” a community meeting about education and other issues in the South Ward, happens Monday at 5 p.m. at Spencer Miller School. Brick City Live

News from Trenton & beyond

Reporting on statewide education issues that matter for Newark.

Teacher pay…

  • New Jersey teachers and administrators saw their salaries rise last year at the highest rate in several years. NJ Spotlight
  • In Newark, the average teacher salary in 2017-18 was $75,576. For administrators, it was $105,211.


  • Rutgers University professors at the Newark and Camden campuses are threatening a mass protest if they are not paid the same as their counterparts in New Brunswick. Newark Patch

White House tour…

  • Three New Jersey students who are from different countries were barred from joining their class on a White House tour because they didn’t bring passports. New York Post

Giving thanks…

  • Here’s a list of the many things Chalkbeat readers are thankful for. Chalkbeat
  • If you’re in a giving mood, you can donate to Chalkbeat here.

Extra credit

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

Students from Central High School joined members of Assembly of Love Church to give out food to community members last week.

Photo: Facebook/Central High School