Earlier this year, the State of New Jersey missed out in $400 million in federal aid for public schools due to an administrative error and the political inability to take the educational needs of the state’s students seriously. This money would have been part of the federal Race to the Top program, a set of competitive grants awarded to states that show they could, theoretically, spend the money effectively.
While this fair state missed out on Race to the Top funds, New Jersey qualified to receive $268 million from the federal jobs program. This money is being distributed to districts, with some receiving a few hundred thousand dollars and some receiving over a million, though the share calculation has been kept private. The federal government is not the only entity interested in putting money into public schools to aid the neediest programs.
The public schools in the city of Newark will win the funding race thanks to the young founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. Newark mayor Cory Booker met Zuckerberg only in July, but the two have been communicating since then. This fast friendship has resulted in the wunderkind donating $100 million in the form of Facebook stock to Newark’s schools. Unfortunately, the value of this stock is based on a Facebook total valuation of $33 billion which may be a bit optimistic.
Why Newark? Why not. Zuckerberg has no direct connection with the city, but the district is surely needier than the his hometown’s public schools in White Plains, New York.
With a movie coming out in October that is sure to paint the Facebook founder perhaps unfairly in a negative light, a generous philanthropic gesture could do wonders for his image. Money is money, though, and to the students in Newark who will be the beneficiaries of this generosity, the donor’s motivation shouldn’t be too important. I would like to believe that the money will be managed properly and find its way to the direct benefit of students in the city.