By BARBARA MARTINEZ
Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old founder and chief executive of Facebook, is expected to announce a donation of $100 million to the Newark public school system this week, in a bold and aggressive bid to turn around one of the country's worst performing school systems.
Mr. Zuckerberg is setting up a foundation with $100 million of Facebook stock to be used to improve education in America, with the primary goal of helping Newark.
The donation has the potential to be matched by another $100 million that Newark's mayor, Cory Booker, has been working on raising from private foundations and others.
Newark spends about $22,000 a year on each of its 40,000 pupils, but only about half of its students graduate. Of those who do, only one-fifth go on to four-year colleges. More than 85% of the Newark students at community colleges need remedial help in math and English.
The $200 million that could be raised would amount to over 20% of Newark's budget of $940 million.
The donation comes at a time when foundations and wealthy investors are increasingly funneling large amounts of money to public education –but with strings attached. In Washington, D.C., this year foundations pledged millions of dollars to fund an increase in teacher pay that is tied to an individual teacher's ability to show that they can help students improve their performance.
In the case of Mr. Zuckerberg's donation, there are no particular plans as of yet. Mr. Booker is supposed to draw up those plans and get community support for them, according to a person familiar with the situation.
A $100 million donation to a school district is rare, but not unprecedented. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has pumped almost $5 billion into K-12 education, awarded Tampa' Hillsborough County School District $100 million last year to overhaul how teachers and trained and evaluated.
Newark has been controlled by the state since the mid 1990s. This month, Gov. Chris Christie informed the city's superintendent that his contract won't be renewed after June 2011. In making that announcement, the governor vowed to implement forceful changes in Newark, portending a drive to implement an agenda that includes stronger teacher evaluations and merit pay.
Under terms of the understanding between Mr. Zuckerberg, Gov. Christie and Mr. Booker, the Newark mayor would become the governor's authorized representative in Newark to devise aggressive plans for big changes to the school system, according to a person familiar with the announcement.
According to a person with knowledge of the donation, Mr. Booker will make education the focal point of his second term, just as he made crime the centerpiece of his first.
Mr. Zuckerberg's pledge, his largest gift to date, comes as the company he founded battles to counteract a Hollywood film's scathing depiction of the executive. "The Social Network," which opens in wide U.S. release Oct. 1, portrays Mr. Zuckerberg as a conniving backstabber who may have stolen the idea for his social-networking site.
The site has over 500 million users world-wide. Investors currently value the company at more than $20 billion. Mr. Zuckerberg owns more than a quarter of Facebook's stock, say people familiar with the matter.
—Stephanie Banchero and Geoffey Fowler contributed to this article.
Write to Barbara Martinez at Barbara.Martinez@wsj.com
Source - Wall Street Journal