When Corey Booker, then Mayor of Newark, and Chris Christie, then Governor of New Jersey, persuaded  Mark Zuckerberg to give them $100 million to transform the schools of Newark, they told him that Newark would become the New Orleans of the North and that it would become one of the highest performing districts in the nation. Hahaha. As Dale Russakoff explained in her book The Prize about Zuckerberg’s millions, most of the money went to consultants and to pay off debts to the teachers’ union.

Nonetheless, Christie delivered on his end of the bargain. Newark is on track to have more than 40% of its students in charter schools. Ten years ago, less than 10% were in charter schools.  

The state has signed off on nearly 7,000 more charter seats to be available by the 2022-23 school year, according to state data compiled by Sass Rubin, who teaches at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Policy. If all those seats are filled and district enrollment stays flat at about 34,200 students, then the share of students who go to school in Newark and attend charters could climb as high as 44 percent.

No one knows whether the demand will meet the supply, but that doesn’t matter. The supply will be there thanks to the Christie administration.

Some said it made sense to stockpile extra seats during the charter-friendly Christie administration, under which the number of charter students doubled. “While the getting is good, and Christie is approving just about anything that sounds stable, why don’t we just go and apply for additional charters so we can have those in our pocket?” asked one charter leader, describing the thinking of some of his school’s board members.

So now we must eagerly await the results to see whether Newark becomes a model for the nation, as Booker and Christie said it would be. Or do we have to wait for Newark to become 100% charter? Apparently the goal is to prove that poverty and segregation don’t matter, and that charters can succeed despite those factors. Let’s see.

But the problem with Newark becoming 100% charter is that then the charters would have no place to send the kids they don’t want. As this report by Mark Weber and Julia Sass Rubin shows, the charters systematically under enroll students with disabilities and English language learners. If charters must take all of them, it might drive down their test scores.