Chris Christie’s ultimate test: Education reform

“Chris will either be the most stunningly effective governor ever in New Jersey, or he will alienate so many constituencies that he can’t build the consensus to tackle these grave problems,” said Cory Booker, Newark’s mayor. The Republican governor recently gave the Democratic mayor a big role in running the Newark public schools, which the state took over in 1995 after declaring them a failure…

For years, the teachers union has argued that New Jersey pays more but gets more. The state’s high-school graduation rate is 82%, the highest in the nation, and New Jersey ranks among the top five states in key subject areas, according to the Education Law Center in Newark, which pushes for better funding for public schools. Its graduation rate for black males is 69%, the highest for a state with a large African-American population, according to a recent report from the Schott Foundation, which advocates “fully resourced, high-quality” public education…

“Chris Christie isn’t the most convenient messenger for the education-reform movement, because of his take-no-prisoners style,” says Andrew Rotherham, a co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, which seeks to accelerate achievement of low-income students. “But he’s on to something big—that the huge cost for public schools is no longer sustainable.”