New Jersey’s largest school district is poised to become a laboratory for education reforms with the help of a new foundation launched last week with a $100 million initial investment from Facebook founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg.
Mr. Zuckerberg said he launched the foundation—Startup: Education—with the goal of improving educational opportunities for U.S. children. The foundation’s first project is to remake the 39,000-student Newark, N.J., school district and “create a national model for rewarding excellence in education.”
The project brings together an unusual group of leaders: the 26-year-old Internet tycoon; Newark’s Democratic mayor, Cory Booker; and Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Under an initiative accompanying the foundation’s support, Mayor Booker will be authorized by the governor to develop a new education plan for the city’s schools based on clear standards and rewards for performance. The schools have been state-run since 1995 yet consistently have some of the state’s lowest test scores.
The deal is evidence of the growing popularity of helping public schools with outside money, said Derrell Bradford, the executive director of the Newark-based education reform group Excellent Education for Everyone.
“For the under-40 set, education reform is what feeding kids in Africa was in 1980,” Mr. Bradford said. “Newark public schools are like the new Live Aid.”
Education experts will be watching the deal closely, Mr. Bradford said. “If you are enormously successful, then you really have outlined a model of how you can use private philanthropy to break the status quo,” he said. “And if you fail, you’ve given everybody a billion reasons never to try again.”
A version of this article appeared in the September 29, 2010 edition of Education Week as Facebook CEO Starts Schools Foundation at $100 Million