DailyMail: In his first major show of philanthropy, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a splash by announcing his plan to give $100 million to help turn around Newark, New Jersey’s public schools in an appearance on Oprah in 2010.
But nearly four years later, Zuckerberg’s money has run out, having been spent mostly on labor contracts and consulting fees with no noticeable improvement in student performance, a report in the New Yorker reveals.
“Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read,” Vivian Cox Fraser, the president of the Urban League of Essex County, told the magazine
Then-Mayor Cory Booker came up with the plan to bring cutting-edge educational reform to his city in 2010. He saw a way to bring rapid change through philanthropic donations, which require no public reviews on spending, and Governor Chris Christie got on board.
The program’s largest donor was Zuckerberg, who even admitted to Booker that he didn’t know much about education reform or philanthropy.
Zuckerberg’s conditions were that Booker find other donors to match his contribution and hire a new “transformational leader” as superintendent.
Cami Anderson was eventually selected as superintendent, but the job of turning Newark’s schools into “a symbol of excellence for the whole nation” has not been easy. “This is 16-dimensional chess,” Anderson said.
Zuckerberg’s money has mostly gone into the early stages of overhaul, paying consultants upwards of $1,000 a day to find solutions to Newark public schools’ problems.
According to the report, between 2010 and 2012 “more than $20 million of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms and various specialties: public relations, human resources, communications, data analysis and teacher evaluations.”
And the plans for overhaul did not settle well with Newark parents, who were informed that many of the schools would be closed and replaced with charter schools.
Anderson’s plan, titled “One Newark”, is the latest iteration of how to change the schools. It offers families the ability to chose between 55 public schools and 16 charter schools to send their children to, with low-income families and those with special-needs students getting first pick.
But there are still several flaws with the plan such as the fact that it doesn’t include funds to provide transportation for students.
The author took a walk with some Newark parents, tracing the route their daughter would take to a potential new school, down streets of boarded-up homes occupied by gangs. “I will not allow my daughter to make this walk,” Jacqueline Edward said. “My twenty-eight-year-old started off in a gang, and we fought to get him out. My twenty-two-year-old has a lot of anger issues because Daddy wasn’t there. I just refuse to see another generation go that way.”
And now there are fears that the plan will be slowed since Ras Baraka, Newar’s new mayor as of Tuesday night, has been an outspoken opponent to the plan.
Meanwhile, the two people that championed the plan have all but abandoned the Newark problem. Booker has since gone to Washington as a New Jersey senator and Governor Christie is busy repairing his reputation after Bridgegate.
It’s unclear if Zuckerberg will offer additional funds.
Note to Zuckerberg: