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Is Zuckerberg spending his $100 million wisely?

Here's my dumb (and perhaps uncharitable) question about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation to Newark schools, announced with great fanfare on Oprah on Friday. Newark famously spends more money per pupil than just about any district in the country -- $22,000, versus $10,800 nationally. So it can't be that money is the answer to what ails Newark's schools. To be sure, I know that philanthropy can be critical to help fund reforms during the transition from old, bad ways of doing things to newer, smarter ways. Foundation funding has been central, for example, to Michelle Rhee's plans to test much higher teacher salaries in exchange for greater professionalism in the District, even though Washington has been, like Newark, a poster boy for the notion that vast gobs of cash disappear in urban school bureaucracies without a trace. I'm also a big fan of both Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), and I'm thus ready to stipulate that any education initiative they're behind is probably worth supporting.

Still, given how rich Newark's funding is already, I can't help wishing the California-based Zuckerberg had looked for opportunities to fund cash-starved school innovations closer to home. In Los Angeles, for example, where the legacy of prop 13 has left per pupil funding around $9,000, great charter school operators such as Green Dot schools are given only $7,800 per pupil -- barely more than a third of the resources Newark already enjoys. Yet Green Dot is transforming lives for thousands of poor kids, and with Zuckerberg-scale help they could offer lifelines to thousands more. If, as the trailer for "The Social Network" quips, "you can’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies," it's probably also true that you can't give away hundreds of millions without making a few mistakes. Here's hoping Zuckerberg is open to learning more about where his cash for schools might make an even bigger difference.

By Matt Miller  | September 24, 2010; 8:24 PM ET
Categories:  Miller  | Tags:  Matt Miller  
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Comments

As a high school student in New Jersey,I am very annoyed at how money is being allocated. My school is fairly decent, but with our high performance, we get awarded with budget cuts. My school district has been efficient even though we spend $10,000 less per student than Newark schools. Somehow, educators think that due to our efficiency, we can handle losing funding to help out the schools with poor performance. This has been going on for a while, but this year, I TOTALLY DO NOT SEE THE POINT. What kind of mindset are they trying to teach us? If you work hard, you'll lose money, but if you do poorly, you'll receive money??!?!?!? Clearly, money is NOT the solution for Newark. It's the education system itself that needs to be restructured. There have been cases in struggling schools where teachers tell special ed students not to come to school on the day of standardized testing, and even instances where the teachers correct the tests before handing them in. Yes, it must be difficult providing education in a tough environment, but that is even more reason why that we should stop channeling so much money in what is obviously an ineffective method of schooling. Schools in Newark have to stop using increased funding as a crutch, and start pulling in the reins in the classroom. Going easy on students due to their lower social/economic status is a disservice to the students and the community.
And another point: why are special ed students' test scores factored into my higschool's scores when THEY DON'T EVEN GO TO MY SCHOOL. They just live in my district. But kids who live in our district who go to specialized high schools don't get factored into our scores. This is annoying, as it hinders us from receiving funding. I love my school, but the increasing classroom sizes and the elimination of many programs is disheartening.
Parents, please vote. When it comes to things like school budgets, every vote DOES count, especially when you look at the numbers. It's RIDICULOUS.
And last point. What is Chris Christie doing??!! Our teachers and students do NOT need this. At all.

Posted by: blobfish | September 24, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

I hope Zuckerberg has an auditor to follow up and make sure the money is used in the manner in which it is supposed to be used.

Look at what happened to the Obama education stimulus. There are reports that the money is not being used as it was intended.

In addition, Oprah should have allowed Zuckerberg to keep his privacy. Now he is going to be hounded by the press. Everything he does will be reported to the public. What kind of life is that?

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 25, 2010 7:26 AM | Report abuse

I couldn't agree more. He's rewarding the worst performers while ignoring those who actually know how make efficient use of his monetary gift. Union hacks and politicians in Mewark will spend every dime, ask for more, and then bristle if he asks for some documentation that students actually got a return on his investment. On second thought, maybe the billionaire guilty conscience club should watch their money evaporate for a few years, maybe we'd see. Ore of them join the enlightened tea party instead of the party with a hundred excuses.

Posted by: hdc77494 | September 25, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

hdc77494,

Union people don't have access to the money, only the administration does. It's the administration that will decide how the money is spent, not the union.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 26, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Newark has an education budget of $950 million, so Zuckerman is leveraging his investment wisely. He can join with Democrats for Education Reform and harvest millions in profits from the Newark schools, by bringing in Michelle Rhee to reduce them to rubble and convert the rubble to homeless shelters.

He's even better off if he happens to own WPO stock. That's bound to rise on the reform agenda he's decreeing for his lousy million. Here are two links that show the way to a whole new dynasty of runaway profits. connect the dots, and you can invest, too:

Published Online: September 24, 2010
School Closures Hit Homeless Students Hard, Study Finds By Sarah D. Sparks
comments
“Close the school and reopen it as a homeless shelter. People look to the schools to solve too many social problems. “

“Provide online courses K-12 aligned with state and national standards at the shelters. No vaccination/health records or permanent folders needed. Transferrable credits throughout the US.”

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/09/24/05homeless_ep.h30.html?qs=school+closures


“IMAGINE REACHING EVERY CHILD,
EVEN IF SHE NEVER WALKS
THROUGH THE DOOR.”

“Districts can provide services to a wider variety of students, adding new students, increasing per-pupil funding, and serving students who are currently difficult or expensive to serve. Districts can also open an intact virtual school that has the look and feel of the district and not that of Kaplan.”

http://www.kaplanonlineschools.com/district/solutions

Kaplan Online Schools is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Washington Post Corporation. Nationwide virtual charters is the explicit agenda of Duncan’s Race to the Top.


Published Online: September 24, 2010
School Closures Hit Homeless Students Hard, Study Finds By Sarah D. Sparks
comments
“Close the school and reopen it as a homeless shelter. People look to the schools to solve too many social problems. “

“Provide online courses K-12 aligned with state and national standards at the shelters. No vaccination/health records or permanent folders needed. Transferrable credits throughout the US.”

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/09/24/05homeless_ep.h30.html?qs=school+closures


“IMAGINE REACHING EVERY CHILD,
EVEN IF SHE NEVER WALKS
THROUGH THE DOOR.”

“Districts can provide services to a wider variety of students, adding new students, increasing per-pupil funding, and serving students who are currently difficult or expensive to serve. Districts can also open an intact virtual school that has the look and feel of the district and not that of Kaplan.”

http://www.kaplanonlineschools.com/district/solutions

Kaplan Online Schools is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Washington Post Corporation. Nationwide virtual charters is the explicit agenda of Duncan’s Race to the Top.

Posted by: mport84 | September 26, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

It's a waste of money. See Richard Cohen's posting about parent involvement in today's paper.
The children of parents (or single parent) who care will do well and those of parents who don't give a damn won't.
Simple as that.

Posted by: parkbench | September 26, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

the ultra-high funding of tne Newark schools is required by the NJ Supreme Court (which believes taxpayer money fixes everything), not a decision by the governor or the state legislature. The real problem is a student body that reflects the at-home situation (high percentage of single parent households, virtually no parental involvement, no push from anywhere the students encounter, including the schools). About the only way the situation could change would be to take the kids out of their homes and put them in boot-camp-like environments with drill sergeant-like supervision until they learn to read, write and do basic arithmetic. Of course, this isn't going to happen and the kids will continue to drop out or "be graduated" without basic skills.

Posted by: weissler | September 27, 2010 1:00 AM | Report abuse

It's his money and if he thinks it will help who are we to disagree. Please refrain from touting Rhee as an example - not good.

Posted by: rlj611 | September 27, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Who cares? He has plenty of money. His money, his choice. Hard to question any attempt at a good deed. He needs to do more.

Posted by: bigmc1 | September 27, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Who cares? He has plenty of money. His money, his choice. Hard to question any attempt at a good deed. He needs to do more.

Posted by: bigmc1 | September 27, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Reforming urban school systems has become the new fad of the year for the gentrified yuppie white residents and outsiders theses days. I was checking out how deep this Wash DC election has affected people. It's a private "we can't let them win" mentality prevailing here and I find it very insulting. People are pouring out their emotions into the concerns for the education of poor black kids in Urban America. Hmmmmmmmm....what gives here? I don't know about the entire country but here in D.C. it about getting the young white kids good paying jobs in the school system and firing the teachers who have been there. It can't be a parental thing because only 5% of the schools enrollment are white kids. We also see that education is big business these days. They are running them similar to what you see being done at prisons. Yes...Prisons!! Outsourcing public education is big business for somebody and definitely a battle cry from new citizens in the gentrified neighborhoods. Why? "Gentrifiers" love Black people?

This new obsession everyone seems to have these days with Black city schools, the students and their administrators reminds me of the fad we once saw in Hollywood. You know..the one where all of the celebs were going to Africa to adopt a little African baby. SMH!!
Spare me folks. This is just part of cleaning up cities and running Black folks out. One Hundred million should help.

Posted by: kentonsmith | September 27, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Great & very thoughtful post. First time I've seen a cogent thought on the WaPo in the past 2 years. What are you doing here?

Posted by: jcp370 | September 27, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

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