Plagued by corruption and mismanagement, the schools had been taken over by the state in 1995 — hence the importance of Christie’s involvement. But the system remained a disaster, with fewer than 40 percent of third- through eighth-graders reading or doing math at grade level

Why doesn’t this surprise me that a school system in New Jersey governed by Mr. Christie would fail.

It is a story of politicians, especially then-Mayor Booker, with more ambition than attention span, leaving behind unfinished business — and students lagging years below grade level — as they climb the political ladder.

It is a story of the earnest young billionaire whose conviction that the key to fixing schools is paying the best teachers well collided with the reality of seniority protections not only written into teacher contracts but also embedded in state law.

It is a story of dedicated teachers like Princess Williams, whose kindergartners began the school year not knowing the difference between the front and back covers of a book, and the difficulty of solving educational problems in the context of such pervasive poverty and neglect.