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Newark Mayor Wants a Pause on Charter School Expansion in the City

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is calling for the state to push the pause button on charter expansion in the city.

About 30 percent of the city's public school students already attend charter schools, and that percentage could surpass 40 percent in the next five years based on plans that have been already approved, according to Chalkbeat.

Among districts with the largest percentage of students attending charters, Newark ranks 15th, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. In cities such as New Orleans, Detroit, and Flint, Mich., charter schools educate more than half of all public school students.  

Baraka, a former principal who is running for reelection this year, argues that "aggressive" growth in the charter sector could siphon funds away from traditional public schools and "suck the life out of traditional schools—and we can't have that."

Baraka said he does not think that charters should expand "arbitrarily" and "aggressively" without thinking about the impacts on the traditional school system. The district will steer $237 million this year to charter schools, Chalkbeat's Patrick Wall reported.

Baraka may find a sympathetic ear in newly-elected Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, who supported a "time out" for charter schools on the campaign trail. Earlier this month, Murphy's education department said it planned to review the state's charter school law. New Jersey has 89 charter schools, which educate nearly 50,000 students, according to NJ.com. 

But the governor also said in a radio interview this month that he is not against charter schools, and he won't say "hell no" to them.

"I just don't like the way we've done it," he said, according to NJ.com 

Baraka is on board with allowing charter schools that already have approvals to go forward; but additional schools should not get the green light until the process is reviewed, he said. In that same interview Baraka acknowledged that charter schools were part of the city's education landscape and that Newark parents were choosing charter schools for their children.

Arianna Prothero contributed to this report.

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