Facebook Zuckerberg's California school gift aims to avoid Newark pitfalls

Fri May 30, 2014 6:45pm EDT
 
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By Victoria Cavaliere

(Reuters) - Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's gift of $120 million to the San Francisco Bay Area public school system on Friday marks his second attempt at putting huge sums of his own money into turning around failing schools.

This time, he can only hope to come under less criticism.

Four years ago, Zuckerberg donated $100 million to reform the chronically ailing Newark, New Jersey, school system, appearing on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" to announce a gift he hoped would turn that city's schools into an example of educational excellence nationwide.

Today, with almost all the funds spent, critics say his efforts in Newark have been misdirected, with much of the money going to programs that have minimal long-term benefit.

"The whole Newark thing was the big celebrity event - dump the money, then go back to the other coast," said Bruce Baker, a professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, in New Jersey.

Zuckerberg said on Friday in a San Jose Mercury News essay written with his wife, Priscilla Chan, that he has "learned a lot about what makes a successful effort" but that it was also too early to determine the impact of the Newark initiative.

Education experts say the Bay Area funds appear better targeted than in Newark, where most of the $100 million donated four years ago has been spent without major improvements in student scores.

Reforms there have prompted protests and criticism that the bulk of the donated funds went for teacher contracts and charter schools, creating what detractors say are financially unsustainable obligations for the school system.   Continued...

 
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg smiles in the stage before delivering a keynote speech during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Albert Gea