Zuckerberg $100M School Donation in Holding Pattern

Newark School Reform: About That $100 Million…
Wonderfully detailed long-form piece on the present state of the Newark school system—it’s challenges and opportunities—and the elephant in the room.

When Anderson unveiled the plan last February, however, she was heckled at public meetings by residents who accused her of trying to rob them of their neighborhood schools. “Cami Anderson, I have not seen such trickery since the devil took over the Garden of Eden,” one of her detractors told her at a budget hearing. Naturally, the teachers’ union has happily stoked the outrage. “I’m all for school reform,” Del Grosso chuckles. “But this is the Dr. Kevorkian approach.”

The budget crunch has also forced Anderson to cut arts and music programs at some schools. Residents find this bizarre at a time when so many philanthropic dollars are flowing into Newark. “I don’t understand why you are doing this,” a frustrated Newarker asked at the budget meeting. “Where’s the Facebook money?” Good question.

The answer: matching funds are still being raised. The mayor has raised $54 million so far, just over half the needed funds to unfreeze Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s donation. Mayor Booker claims a big fundraising announcement will be coming in the next few months and I think he will succeed at closing the gap.

I am curious about the governance of the money. The total combined donation of $200 million is about a fifth of the nearly $1 billion Newark schools budget. How will residents get a say in where that money is directed?

Some read questions like this and the significant contributions from hedge fund managers as an effort to buy out the education system and run it at a profit (or some other nefarious scheme). I’m going to go on record and suggest that’s a load of crap.

BusinessWeek interviewed two main opponents of the mayor for the counterpoint perspective. One, State Senator Clifford Minor, ran a failed campaign for the mayor’s office against Booker.

The other was Joseph Del Grasso, president of the Newark Teacher’s Union. The union, whose membership enjoys a median salary 30% more than the rest of the state, has had an almost militant opposition to the mayor since his his swearing in. In 2007, they paid for a charming campaign to cover the city in billboards decrying the prevalence of violent crime, but offering no solutions.

When it comes to opposition to reforming the education system in Newark, I can’t help but think of that Upton Sinclair quote:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Or maybe another more common quote: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Author: Ken Walker

Husband, Father, Newarker, PCA Elder, Business Analyst. In a glass case of emotion since 1978.