Will Cory Booker’s education record hurt his presidential bid?

Welcome to Chalkbeat Newark's weekly newsletter! Today, get up to speed on Cory Booker's views on education now that he's officially in the running for president.

— Patrick Wall, senior reporter

The big story

Among the crowded field of Democrats running for president, Sen. Cory Booker stands out for his lengthy — and controversial — record on education.

Booker, the former Newark mayor who announced his presidential bid on Friday, has long been an avid proponent of school choice and efforts to replace ineffective teachers. After a brief period of bipartisan support, many Democrats no longer support those “education reform” policies.

What positions in particular could cause trouble for Booker with liberal voters?

  • School choice: He’s a longtime champion of charter schools, in Newark and nationally. He also backs taxpayer-funded vouchers to help families pay for private schools, which many liberals see as an attack on public education.
  • Teacher accountability: He supports boosting the pay of highly rated teachers, and removing their low-rated peers from the classroom. In Newark, he backed a new teachers contract that tied teacher pay to performance.

The best place to see Booker’s education philosophy in action is right here in Newark, where, as mayor, he engineered an overhaul of the school system. The shakeup produced a ferocious backlash that overshadowed the academic results. Yet Booker continues to defend the effort.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said last year.

Read the full story here.

What to watch

What else is happening around Newark schools.

On training day, Newark Public Schools teachers get help from charter network


  • What to know: Dozens of North Ward reading teachers attended a workshop last week led by Uncommon Schools, the charter network that operates several high-performing schools in Newark.
  • The network, whose Newark schools are known as North Star Academy, previously trained district teachers under the former superintendent, Christopher Cerf.
  • Some expected Cerf’s successor, NPS veteran Roger León, to be less friendly to charters. Instead, he’s been eager to keep the partnerships going.
  • Shortly after being selected as superintendent in May, León visited an Uncommon-led workshop for district principals. He also dropped by the training last Wednesday.
  • In addition to Uncommon, León has also partnered with the KIPP charter network.
  • One big question: Workshops are nice, but what will León do if forced to weigh in on more contentious topics like the networks’ plans to keep expanding in Newark?

Newark news & events

Local education reporting and upcoming events.

Cory 2020…

  • Booker launched his presidential campaign Friday with a press conference outside his home in Newark’s Central Ward, where he began his political career as a city councilman. He highlighted his record as mayor of Newark.
  • Calling for more infrastructure investments, Booker said that in cities like Newark, “it seems to be easier to find unleaded gasoline than unleaded water.” TAPinto Newark
  • As Booker tries to distinguish himself among the Democratic party’s historically diverse group of presidential contenders, he’ll be preaching a message of unity and love. Politico,, New York Times, CNN
  • Here’s more about his education record, which could prove to be a liability for his campaign. EdWeek, The 74
  • Case in point: The Republican National Committee put out a press release Friday saying Booker “squandered the opportunity” to improve Newark’s school system. InsiderNJ

Dual enrollment…

  • Newark high school students can take college classes free of charge thanks to a new collaboration between Newark Public Schools and Rutgers University-Newark. TAPinto Newark, Newark Patch

Black History Month…

  • Weequahic High School is planning a long list of events to celebrate Black History Month with the theme, “Unity Is Our Only Solution.” Newark Patch

News from Trenton & beyond

Reporting on statewide education issues that matter for Newark.

Computer science…

  • The state is providing $2 million in grants to 29 school districts and charter schools to support computer science programs. NJ Spotlight
  • Newark will get a $100,000 grant, the largest of this round., TAPinto Newark

LGBT history…

  • New Jersey has become the second state in the nation to adopt a law that requires schools to teach about LGBT history.

Extra credit

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

Reminder: “Abington Avenue School is proud to present Sleeping Beauty Kids on February 7 and 8th. As a recipient of the NJPAC Disney Musicals in Schools Program, Abington is in our second year of this exciting grant which allows us to perform our favorite Disney Musical Classics. This years’ production will feature a beautiful fairy chorus as well as the evil Maleficent’s transformation into a fire breathing dragon! Don’t miss this exciting production as you will see the culmination of many weeks of hard work and creativity of the students and staff of Abington Avenue School.”