Explainer: What’s Become of Zuckerberg’s $100M Gift to Newark Schools

John Mooney | October 22, 2013 | Education, Explainer
Facebook founder’s contribution has kept growing -- both in money raised and money spent – since it was announced three years ago

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Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, announced with much fanfare three years ago that he would give $100 million matching to Newark public education over five years. The money was meant to benefit both district and charter schools in the city, with a strong lean toward so-called education-reform efforts being undertaken in the state-controlled district under Superintendent Cami Anderson.

Announced with much fanfare

Zuckerberg made the announcement on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show, alongside Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie. Booker, who was recently elected to the U.S. Senate, was considered instrumental in winning Zuckerberg’s commitment after meeting him several months earlier at a Sun Valley retreat.

What came next

The gift led to the creation of the Foundation for Newark’s Future, a Newark-based nonprofit group that would administer and distribute the money. As of October 2013, it has spent almost $80 million of the total, nearly $50 million of which went toward implementation of the new labor contract between the Newark public schools and the Newark Teachers Union. Required to match the full $100 million, it has conducted its own fundraising and raised a reported $85 million at last count from sources such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and venture capitalist John Doerr. Booker has continued to be the foundation’s most visible fundraiser.

Some early bumps in the road

The gift faced criticism early on from those opposed to the reforms planned for in the district — and questioned exactly where the money was going. It didn’t help that it took two years to form a promised community advisory board, and that more than $1 million went to an early survey and forums.

Some later bumps in the road

Some critics are still questioning how well the money is being spent. Booker, in his senatorial campaign, faced political ads from supporters of his opponent that contended the Zuckerberg money has been wasted under Booker’s watch.

Where the money has gone

Following is a breakdown of major contributions of $1 million or more, so far, according to FNF.

  • $48 million: NTU teachers contract, including $31 million in retroactive pay to teachers and the balance for new performance bonuses to “highly effective” teachers and those working in high-needs schools.
  • $5 million: Newark Charter School Fund, a fund aimed to support and leverage charter school growth in the city
  • $4 million: Newark Public Schools technical assistance grant, distributed to the district in Anderson’s first two years to help build human resources and other administrative capacity
  • $3.5 million: New rewards administered by the Newark Education Trust for principals working in high-needs schools and showing highest achievement growth.
  • $2.8 million: NPS Diagnostic and Transition Phase, for audit and other diagnostic studies of the district in Anderson’s first months.
  • $2 million: PENewark, a public relations campaign in 2010 that surveyed residents and held community forums on educational reform and improvement.
  • $1.2 million: My Very Own Library, an ongoing program that allows students in select schools to choose 10 books for their home “libraries.”
  • $1 million: Teach for America, the national teacher placement program, for recruitment and support of teachers in the first two years of the gift.
  • The balance of the money spent went to smaller programs and schools, some for start-up and others to help support ongoing work. These ranged from $15,000 to NJ After 3, the after-school program, to $550,000 for the new all-boys school in the district. The foundation also continues to pay $10,000 grants to individual teachers or teams of teachers proposing innovative and promising strategies.
  • Foundation for Newark’s Future staff

    The foundation, located off Military Park in downtown Newark, is led by Kimberly McLain, a former executive in Teach for America and Newark Charter School Fund. McLain replaced Greg Taylor, the foundation’s inaugural director, who resigned in February. The foundation has a staff of 5-6 people, as well as a governing board.

    Foundation for Newark Future’s board of trustees

  • Paul Bernstein, chair, chief executive officer of The Pershing Square Foundation
  • Enrico Gaglioti, global head of Equity Sales, Goldman Sachs
  • Jen Holleran, executive director, Start Up: Education, the national Zuckerberg-funded education foundation
  • Cory Booker, ex-officio, Newark mayor and U.S. Senator-elect
  • Dr. Robert L. Johnson, dean and professor of pediatrics, Rutgers’ New Jersey Medical School