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.
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