A Dream Come True? Mark Zuckerberg’s 100 Million Dollar Donation


 Mark Zuckerberg’s Donation to Newark SchoolsMark Zuckerberg’s Donation to Schools in Newark, N.J.

A failing school district gets tens of millions of dollars from a popular tech tycoon. It sounds like the opening scene of a Cinderella story blockbuster movie. But for the Newark school district, it was a dream come true in 2010 when Mark Zuckerberg, owner and founder of Facebook, announced that he was donating 100 million dollars to save the city’s failing schools. What could be bad about poor neighborhoods improving their public education system with the help of some generous funds? Well, money isn’t everything. Making sure that money is used in the best way possible is much more complicated than it sounds.

In her book ‘The Prize’ Dale Russakoff tracks the progress of Newark schools over the course of five years following Zuckerberg’s donation to Newark. In addition to the original 100 million from the Facebook tycoon, Newark was the beneficiary of a matching 100 million raised by Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. 200 million dollars is a lot of money for one school district, or at least it sounds like it. Just think about the potential to hire more and better teachers, increase programming and provide more personalized attention to struggling students!

As would be expected, Zuckerberg didn’t just come and hand over a check, he also had his own ideas about how the money should be used. On the one hand, if he was footing the bill, it shouldn’t be surprising that he wanted to have a say in where his money was going. On the other hand, why should a superintendent, principals and other school administrators with decades of experience in education be bound to the ideas of a thirty-year-old computer programmer? Who is to say that he knows anything about saving failing schools?

It turns out, money can’t buy everything, and it certainly can’t circumvent longstanding checks and balances such as educational policy, state laws and teachers’ unions. But with the help of Mark Zuckerberg’s donation to schools in Newark, there were some marked improvements. According to the New Jersey Department of Education, graduation rates increased by 11% from 2011 to 2014. That is a pretty impressive change in such a short time frame. Additionally, students in Newark’s charter schools are performing significantly better than state averages in reading and math. When you look at the numbers, it is clear that there have been substantial changes for the better.

While the students of Newark are enjoying some improvements in the school system, we can’t forget how much was invested. 200 million dollars was poured into their education and although students in charter schools have seen dramatically improved scores, those in traditional public schools are still performing below state averages. Additionally, while Zuckerberg set out to use a significant portion of the funds to reward successful teachers, state laws and powerful teachers’ unions prevented him from implementing this plan.

So what can 200 million dollars accomplish in a failing school district? That all depends on how and where exactly it is invested. Should we allow tech tycoons and politicians to control policy in our schools? Can money buy educational success for our underprivileged students? How can we encourage donors to invest in education while ensuring that the funds are maximized? Who should the decision makers be when it comes to where the money actually goes and how it is divided? We would love to hear your opinions. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

2 Responses to A Dream Come True? Mark Zuckerberg’s 100 Million Dollar Donation

  1. Mr. Zuckerbergs donation or contribution is very laudable and needs to be praised .God richly bless him and family

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