Was Zuckerberg's $100M school gift a waste?
Facebook's CEO made a generous donation to Newark officials, but now there's very little to show for it.
As Oprah said in her Oprah way, "one . . . hundred . . . million . . . dollars" would be given to Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the three began the Startup:Education foundation.
The plan was to turn Newark into what Zuckerberg (pictured) called "a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation," spent on retaining the best teachers, and creating environments that would produce successful students and, one day, graduates.
Newark is a city wrought with crime. Its graduation rate is about 67 percent. It needed the help, and Booker's vision sounded promising.
Between 2010 and 2012, The New Yorker reports that "more than $20 million of Zuckerberg's gift and matching donations went to consulting firms with various specialties: public relations, human resources, communications, data analysis, [and] teacher evaluation." Many of the consultants were being paid upwards of $1,000 a day.
"Everybody's getting paid but Raheem still can't read," Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, was quoted saying.
Today, the money is pretty much gone, and Newark has hardly become that symbol of excellence.
In 2010, Mayor Booker found a loophole in getting money to help fund Newark's educational reform. It came in the form of philanthropic donations, which, unlike government funding, required no public review of priorities or spending. Gov. Christie approved the plan, and Booker's job was to find the donors.
Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, Zuckerberg (like many other tech billionaires) had pledged to donate half of his fortune, but as The New Yorker reports, he knew very little about urban education or philanthropy.
Booker and Zuckerberg met to discuss a vision for Newark's future. Booker wanted to significantly reward Newark teachers who improved student performance rather than focus on seniority and tenure. Teachers would be challenged and rewarded to do their jobs well, and students would benefit.
- Booker would also have to raise $100 million. Zuckerberg's money would be released to Newark as matching dollars rolled in.
- Booker would have to replace the current superintendent with a "transformational leader."
The reform ended up looking like this: taking low-performing public schools and closing them, turning them into charter schools and "themed" high schools. But there was no easy way to expand charters without destabilizing traditional public schools.
In the months following the gift announcement, Booker and Christie still had no superstar superintendent and no reform plan.
Zuckerberg was concerned and urged Booker to find the superintendent, even sending Booker a poster widely seen around the Facebook campus that read, "Done is better than perfect."
Immediately, Booker appointed Cami Anderson for the job. She implemented ways to help students and improve schools (all which The New Yorker detailed), but there were roadblocks along the way, like how the students brought the issues going on in their homes with them to the classroom.
Anderson wanted to give schools more support to help students on emotional and social levels, but Newark had already been spending more money per student than most districts in the entire country, none of which was reaching the children it existed to help.
New contracts were being created, money was being hemorrhaged, and the district was going broke. But interviews -- like this one in Forbes -- regarding the money and the future of Newark's schools were always positive, highlighting, of course, only the good aspects of the huge monetary donation.
Then, in January of this year, The Washington Post reported on "dozens of emails between the Zuckerberg camp (including Zuckerberg himself) and the Booker camp (including Booker himself)," which ended up revealing that state education officials were going above and beyond to get money from big private donors to remake public schools in the way they want to.
Anderson came up with another plan called One Newark, which sounded like it could work. Families would choose which charter or public schools they would want to send their children to. Children from the lowest-income families would get first pick. So would kids with special needs.
It all sounded great until parents and teachers realized it was only on paper. Solutions hadn't been figured out fully. Programs hadn't been developed. Issues like transportation had not yet been tackled. Things that were promised didn't come to fruition.
According to The New Yorker, Anderson, Booker, Zuckerberg, and Christie, "despite millions of dollars spent on community engagement -- have yet to hold tough, open conversations with the people of Newark about exactly how much money the district has, where it is going, and what students aren’t getting as a result."
Tech billionaires.....throwing $$$ at issues they helped create and expecting adoration.
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:
It was very heartwarming to see that you were willing to try to help the education system.
Sorry that it looks like the money was "misdirected" or my personal favorite "misappropriated".
If you decide you want to try your hand at helping the small businesses on Main Street please contact me!
What an idiotic move on Zuckerberg's part. Better off creating scholarships for universities or community colleges, invest in local/small businesses, give to numerous small/local charities that actually work.
I certainly hope he learned his lesson.
Booker and Christi took the sucker Zuckerberg's money and gave it to their "consultant" friends and family!
Serves Zuckerberg right for trusting known corrupt politicians!
No corruption in Chris Chrisi's world, we all know he is a saint among sinners! He probably has no idea what happened to all that money because he had someone else that took care of that! He never does anything wrong, the people that work for him have made a few "mistakes" though! Christi can't be held responsible for what his workers do, he doesn't know what they are doing, so that makes him innocent of anything they do! It's not his job to be watching what other workers do, he has much more more important things to do than to make sure his employees are doing the jobs they were hired to do.
I see no reason why Mr. Christi shouldn't be elected president! He does a great job at blaming others and keeping his tail covered no matter what, so he has the needed qualifications! Him and Booker would be a fine team to have as the POTUS/VPOTUS !!!
Look how fast they were able to spend Zuckerbergs money and have NOTHING to show for it!
Corporate backed, corrupt, easily gets rid of other people's money, uses their elected office and state and federal resources for personal political gain and revenge against political competition, dodges responsibilities....etc., etc.
YEP they have all the qualifications to be POTUS/VPOTUS!!
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