Facebook Fund Helps Seal the Deal for Newark Teachers’ Contract

Money funneled to high-profile performance bonuses, and nuts-and-bolts retroactive pay

The fund created by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to help Newark schools will contribute a little less than $50 million to the contract ratified this week for the city’s teachers, but not necessarily in the ways many expected.

The chief executive of the Foundation for Newark’s Future, Greg Taylor, said yesterday that the fund would pay roughly $18 million for the teacher performance bonuses that have been the centerpiece — and the most controversial piece — of the new contract.

But in some of his first public comments since the deal was ratified by union members on Wednesday, Taylor said $31 million of the total — close to two-thirds — would go to the far less glamorous retroactive pay for teachers to cover two years in which the 4,000 members of the Newark Teachers Union went without a new contract.

Taylor lauded the performance bonuses that have gained the most attention and called them a “remarkable shift” in how the district pays its educators. The bonuses will provide up to $12,500 a year extra for teachers with the highest ratings working in the schools with the greatest needs.

“This is a monumental day for Newark, and for Newark’s schoolchildren and their families,” Taylor said. “We couldn’t be more excited about the direction that the contract has taken the district.”

But he said that FNF also recognized the need to also help pay for the nuts and bolts of the contract, and that included the retroactive pay. FNF will provide virtually all the funding for the retroactive pay in the five-year pact.

“The members earned their cost-of-living increases, and we felt it was important to compensate them for what they earned,” he said.

“We really view both as essential pillars to establishing this contract,” Taylor said of the bonuses and the retroactive pay.

FNF’s overall $48.5 million contribution to the new contract, including matching funds from other foundations, represents close to a quarter of the overall $200 million that Zuckerberg hoped to raise for the city’s schoolchildren with his $100 million gift two years ago.

Up to now, the fund had paid out roughly $16 million of its total to a variety of purposes, Taylor said, from start-up money for new schools to small grants for teacher teams. It is also expected to make a big contribution to the city’s charter schools, although that total has yet to be announced.

But the help on the labor contract is a big step forward for the FNF and, by most accounts, one that was critical to the landmark deal being reached. It is the first large-scale use of performance pay for teachers in the state, and one that Gov. Chris Christie has pressed as a key piece of his education reform agenda.

Christie is slated to be in the city today to lead a press conference at the district’s Speedway School to highlight the contract, with district and NTU officials also on hand. Other key players in the agreement and expected to be in attendance include Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson, NTU president Joseph Del Grosso, and state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the national American Federation of Teachers, the parent union to the NTU, is also expected to be on hand. Weingarten had been part of the final negotiations in the Newark deal and has since gone out of her way to promote the deal as a big step for unions to play a central role in education reforms.

For his part, Taylor stressed yesterday that the FNF played no part in the labor talks themselves. “We left that to the experts,” he said of the negotiators, which included Anderson and Del Grosso.

Anderson, the Newark superintendent, said that about $100 million in additional funds will be required to fulfill the deal, half of which would be provided through Newark public schools and the rest through the FNF.

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