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How Ya Livin' => Education => Topic started by: Reginald Hudlin on September 24, 2010, 10:22:55 am

Title: Facebook and Newark
Post by: Reginald Hudlin on September 24, 2010, 10:22:55 am

September 23, 2010
Facebook and Newark

It is good news that Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, is donating $100 million to remake the failing public schools in Newark. But it will take a lot more than money to improve student performance in that city’s troubled system, which has continued to perform dismally since being taken over by the state 15 years ago. Mayor Cory Booker, who will get substantial control of the system as a condition of the donation, must now rally his city and its unions behind an ambitious reform plan that raises standards and holds teachers and principals accountable for student performance.

The $100 million gift requires the city to raise matching grants over the next five years. Details of how the money will be spent have yet to be released. But Mr. Booker is likely to expand Newark’s high-performing charter schools. By giving charter operators space — always the most expensive part of opening a school — Mr. Booker could easily chose from among the most successful charter school operators.

The money also could be used to pay for a new, performance-based teachers’ contract like the one ratified earlier this year in Washington. The teachers there got a 20 percent raise that was underwritten by private foundations. The city got greater leeway to promote and fire teachers based on performance. This is a pivotal moment for Newark. It will soon be searching for a new superintendent and needs to negotiate contracts with teachers and principals.

Gov. Chris Christie is getting credit for allowing the deal to go forward. But bear in mind that he attacked the public school budget with a meat ax soon after coming into office, turning back the clock on hard-won financing reforms that were intended to give poor cities like Newark a fairer shake. Beyond that, states and municipalities need to be wary of shifting public responsibilities onto the shoulders of philanthropies that can easily change their minds by the next cause.

Still, the reform effort shaping up in Newark gives us reason to be hopeful about a problem that has afflicted the city and its most vulnerable families for too long.