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Controversy over Facebook's millions donated to help Newark schools

zuckerbergMark030911_optBY BOB HOLT
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

Many of us can remember the appearances of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on the Oprah Winfrey program back in September to announce Zuckerberg’s donation of $100 million to Newark’s school system.

Residents have been wondering where that money is going.

New Jersey first took legal control of Newark’s school system in 1995. Chris Cerf, the acting state commissioner of Education, is a founding partner in a firm that consults with school districts. Cerf is on the board of the Foundation for Newark's Future, created by Mayor Booker to double the Zuckerberg donation and make the grants. The donors are venture capitalists, hedge fund managers and technology billionaires. Another one works for Goldman Sachs, which donated to Newark and also invests in for-profit education companies. Some people are accusing Booker of using $1 million of Zuckerberg’s money for the consulting firm.

Professor of education law at Rutgers Paul Trachtenberg says it gives too much control of public institutions to private donors. "It de-professionalizes the schools and assumes that if you're successful as a corporate manager, you can run a school system," he said, according to NPR.

Booker said, "The focus of the grant is to fund traditional district schools, not charters.”

According to Mail Online, about half of Newark's high school students are able to graduate, and half of those pass because of special testing for those who flunk the standard proficiency exam.

The Washington Examiner suggests that Newark needs proper guidelines for education reform, and the financial aid to starving children in Africa that was glamorized by celebrities in the 1980’s was not what it appeared. They say the cash collected from Live-Aid and Bob Geldof was buying guns and feeding government officials.

Booker says he wants to extend the school day and shorten summer break. He also wants to hire better quality teachers, and providing better training for the teachers already in Newark.

 

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