December 9, 2022

Newark school board race draws money from out-of-state, charter school supporters

The Newark school board race has attracted nearly $94,000 so far, largely from a charter-aligned political action committee and a few out-of-state supporters from Texas and California, according to the latest campaign filings.

Seven candidates are vying for three seats on the nine-member board on Tuesday, but campaign reports show only four of them are benefitting from the infusion of contributions as of the latest filing deadline of April 8.

Three candidates — incumbents Daniel Gonzalez, A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, and Crystal Williams — are running on one slate, Moving Newark Schools Forward. Since 2016, the slate has consisted of a group of candidates jointly endorsed by city politicians and charter school advocates who were once at odds. The slate has also won every election since the alliance formed.

Joint committee filings for that slate don’t show any contributions or spending so far. But the slate has the backing of charter school-aligned Great Schools for All, a political action committee chaired by Kyle Rosenkrans, executive director of New Jersey Children’s Foundation.

The special interest group reported $75,000 in contributions, the largest amount by far in this race. It has spent $22,000 so far on digital advertisements and other promotions on behalf of its three preferred candidates.

By contrast, Thomas Luna, one of the four non-slate candidates, reported the second largest fundraising totals, with $11,355 in contributions and $8,781 in spending on campaign mailers, consulting, and other promotions.

The Texas native and math teacher at a KIPP school in Newark has thousands of dollars coming in from supporters in Texas, California, and New York, including Leadership for Educational Equity, a PAC tied to Teach for America.

One of the three candidates on the mayor’s slate, Crystal Williams, also has benefitted from local charter school interest groups contributing directly to her campaign committee. She received $2,600 from the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Action Fund and $2,600 from a group with the same address as Uncommon Schools in New York City. Uncommon runs North Star Academy in Newark, a charter school system with 14 schools in the city.

For the reporting period ending April 8, the state’s elections watchdog website did not list campaign finance reports for the other two candidates on the mayor’s slate, who can have their own committees.

The state elections website also did not have campaign fundraising and spending reports for three other challengers, Maggie Freeman, Allison James-Frison, and Phillip Wilson, all newcomers.

The final deadline to file fundraising and spending reports for the April 19 school board election is May 9.

Here’s a rundown of how much the state has reported candidates and special interest groups raised and spent by April 8.

Great Schools for All PAC

Total raised: $75,000

Total spent: $21,956

Big donors: Great Schools for All in Newark, $75,000.

Thomas Luna

Total raised: $11,355

Total spent: $8,781

Big donors: Leadership for Educational Equity PAC in New York City, $1,500; Arthur Rock of Arthur Rock and Co. in San Francisco $1,500; Maritza Falu of Latin Eagles Group in Newark, $1,500; Laura Joseph, chair of Election Fund of Thomas Luna who also works for KIPP NJ, $1,005; Thomas Luna, personal donations, $5,000.

Crystal Williams

Total raised: $7,416

Total spent: $2,860

Big donors: NJ Public Charter Schools Action Fund in Hamilton $2,600; NJ Students Succeed, which shares an address with Uncommon Schools in New York City $2,600; Crystal Williams, personal donations $2,116.

Maggie Freeman

Total raised: none listed

Total spent: none listed

Big donors: not available

Daniel Gonzalez

Total raised: none listed

Total spent: none listed

Big donors: not available

Allison James-Frison

Total raised: none listed

Total spent: none listed

Big donors: not available

A’Dorian Murray-Thomas

Total raised: none listed

Total spent: none listed

Big donors: not available

Phillip Wilson

Total raised: none listed

Total spent: none listed

Big donors: not available

This article was originally posted on Newark school board race draws money from out-of-state, charter school supporters

Sydney Boles