The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against the state’s biggest city for refusing to release records related to a $100 million gift pledged to its schools by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit against Newark on behalf of a parents group denied access to records requested under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act.
The initial April 1 request sought to review correspondence between Zuckerberg, Newark employees including Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, state officials, and others involved in the deal.
“As parents, as taxpayers, and as citizens, we have a need and right to know how the money pledged to Newark’s public schools will ultimately serve Newark’s public school students,” says Laura Baker, who filed the initial request and has a granddaughter in the 39,440-student school system.
The Booker administration released a statement saying there was no correspondence between the mayor and Zuckerberg. A city spokeswoman said they communicated in person and over the phone.
The $100 million pledge was announced about a year ago by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, Booker, and Zuckerberg as they appeared together on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show.
Zuckerberg described the gift as a “challenge grant” to Booker, who’s trying to raise $100 million more to match what Zuckerberg has promised to contribute over five years.
The gift was presented as a way to try to improve the district, which has been plagued for years by low test scores, poor graduation rates, and crumbling buildings. The district was taken over by the state in 1995 after instances of waste and mismanagement, including the spending of taxpayer money by school board members on cars and restaurant meals.
Parents said they want to know more about how the highly publicized gift would be used.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2011 edition of Digital Directions as ACLU Wants Zuckerberg Gift Records Released