This New Yorker piece on how a combination of a dysfunctional school system and hordes of consultants sucked down the $100 million that Mark Zuckerberg threw at the Newark Schools is too rich in stupidity to summarize, but let me highlight this:
As Booker negotiated the Zuckerberg gift, he was facing a potentially ruinous deficit, aggravated by the recession. He was laying off a quarter of the city’s workforce, including a hundred and sixty-seven police officers—almost every new recruit hired in his first term. The city council was in revolt over Booker’s bid to borrow heavily from the bond market to repair a failing water system. Meanwhile, he was managing a busy speaking schedule, which frequently took him out of the city. Disclosure forms show $1,327,190 in revenue for ninety-six speeches given between 2008 and May, 2013. “There’s no such thing as a rock-star mayor,” the historian Clement Price, of Rutgers University, told me. “You can be a rock star or you can be a mayor. You can’t be both.”
Getting back to the schools, we all hear that inner-city schools have far more administration that their suburban counterparts. Newark’s has 4 times more administrative overhead than comparable suburban districts, with clerks hired to do clerking for other clerks. But one thing that’s rarely discussed is that these low-end administration positions are essentially a jobs program for the inner city. Even though the bureaucracy can’t even reliably cut a payroll check, it’s still almost as impossible to change or dislodge, and if you do change it, the city becomes poorer.