Will Facebook Founder's $100 Million for Newark Schools Make a Difference?

The past week has brought all kinds of big buzz in the education world. The news that 26-year-old billionaire and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to donate $100 million to schools in Newark, New Jersey, is as big as any. We’ve yet to see the details, so it’s hard to say for sure whether this is a good idea or not.

Of course, as recently as yesterday President Obama made national headlines acknowledging the obvious, stubborn fact of education reform that simply pouring more money on the problem does no good. The USA spends more than $500 billion on K-12 education a year, about a billion dollars annually in Newark. So that should give some perspective to Zuckerberg’s generous challenge grant donation. (That, and the fact I broke open my piggy bank to start counting pennies and got nowhere close to $100 million.)

As the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke observes:

…the only hope of success for Zuckerberg’s $100 million venture into large-scale philanthropy is if the money is used to fundamentally reform the existing broken system in Newark.

E3’s Derrell Bradford further explains on a Fox Business segment. The key factor providing hope is that the strong bipartisan reform team of Newark Mayor Cory Booker and NJ Governor Chris Christie are behind the project.

If the money is indeed spent on an innovative project, outside the control of the unions and bureaucrats, on expanding choice and accountability and research-based reforms, then Facebook creator Zuckerberg’s donation very much will be something to applaud. And as the NEA Exposed blog points out, it very likely will drive the teachers unions to react defensively considering the threat it would represent to their power.

(I can’t say I ever really have watched the Oprah show, but last Friday’s segment with Zuckerberg, Booker and Christie is worth 5 or 6 minutes of your time.)

While we’re talking about Facebook, you could do me a big favor by becoming a fan of a couple cool Education Policy Center pages: School Choice for Kids and Independent Teachers. Thanks, everyone!