Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Schooled | The New Yorker

Schooled | The New Yorker

Schooled
Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg had a plan to reform Newark’s schools. They got an education.


I. The Pact

Late one night in December, 2009, a black Chevy Tahoe in a caravan of cops and residents moved slowly through some of the most dangerous neighborhoods of Newark. In the back sat the Democratic mayor, Cory Booker, and the Republican governor-elect of New Jersey, Chris Christie. They had become friendly almost a decade earlier, during Christie’s years as United States Attorney in Newark, and Booker had invited him to join one of his periodic patrols of the city’s busiest drug corridors.

The ostensible purpose of the tour was to show Christie one of Booker’s methods of combatting crime. But Booker had another agenda that night. Christie, during his campaign, had made an issue of urban schools. “We’re paying caviar prices for failure,” he’d said, referring to the billion-dollar annual budget of the Newark public schools, three-quarters of which came from the state. “We have to grab this system by the roots and yank it out and start over. It’s outrageous.”
Booker had been a champion of vouchers and charter schools for Newark since he was elected to the city council, in 1998, and now he wanted to overhaul the school district. He would need Christie’s help. The Newark schools had been run by the state since 1995, when a judge ended local control, citing corruption and neglect. A state investigation had concluded, “Evidence shows that the longer children remain in the Newark public schools, the less likely they are to succeed academically.” Fifteen years later, the state had its own record of mismanagement, and student achievement had barely budged.
Christie often talked of having been born in Newark, and Booker asked his driver to take a detour to Christie’s old neighborhood. The Tahoe pulled to a stop along a desolate stretch of South Orange Avenue, where Christie said he used to take walks with his mother and baby brother. His family had moved to the suburbs in 1967, when he was four, weeks before the cataclysmic Newark riots. An abandoned three-story building, with gang graffiti sprayed across CONTINUE READING: Schooled | The New Yorker


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