Zuckerberg's $100M Goes Nowhere for Newark Schools

Zuckerberg's $100M Goes Nowhere for Newark Schools

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg received much media attention in 2010 when he announced his plan on Oprah to give $100 million to help Newark, New Jersey’s failing public schools.

However, as observed by Dale Russakoff in the New Yorker, four years later Zuckerberg’s funding has been spent on labor contracts and consulting fees with no improvement in student performance.

‘Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read,’ Vivian Cox Fraser, the president of the Urban League of Essex County, told the publication.

In 2009, Gov. Chris Christie (R) and current U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D), who was mayor of Newark at the time and a big supporter of charter schools, agreed to an education reform movement.

According to The New Yorker:

Reformers compared their cause to the civil-rights movement, aware that many of their key opponents were descendants of the old civil-rights establishment: unions and urban politicians determined to protect thousands of public jobs in cities where secure employment was rare. Decades of research have shown that experiences at home and in neighborhoods have far more influence on children’s academic achievement than classroom instruction. But reformers argued that well-run schools with the flexibility to recruit the best teachers could overcome many of the effects of poverty, broken homes, and exposure to violence. That usually meant charter schools, which operated free of the district schools’ large bureaucracies and union rules. “We know what works,” Booker and other reformers often said. They blamed vested interests for using poverty as an excuse for failure, and dismissed competing approaches as incrementalism. Education needed “transformational change.”

The plan called for significant amounts of philanthropic support, which would require no public review of spending priorities. Zuckerberg apparently agreed and pledged $100 million to Booker and Christie’s cause, though the Facebook founder admitted he knew little about urban education reform.

Newark now has 50 new principals, four new public high schools, a new teachers’ contract that ties teacher pay to student performance, and an agreement by most charter schools to serve some of the neediest students. Consultants have been paid upwards of $1,000 per day to come up with solutions to the city’s public school problems.

To date, students in Newark’s public schools are not performing any better than prior to the Christie-Booker-Zuckerberg endeavor. There is yet another “plan,” however.

The new plan, titled “One Newark,” is the latest iteration of the solution to the city’s problem schools. Its implementation is in doubt, however, because Ras Baraka, Newark’s new mayor, is opposed to the plan.