One year after Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg committed $100 million to help reform the struggling public school system in Newark, New Jersey, some of the funds are starting to show up in classrooms, the reports.
According to the online edition of New Jersey's largest local newspaper, at least $9 million of the gift has been used to help open four experimental high schools and two new charter schools, extend the school day for thousands of students, and establish a new call center for parents. Another $48 million has been raised in matching funds from private donors. While donations have slowed since the gift was announced on the Oprah show in 2010, Greg Taylor, head of the , which was established with the gift, said new donors are being cultivated.
As the foundation has begun to spend money, however, critics have taken issue with how it is being spent and what they perceive to be a lack of transparency. For example, $1 million was awarded to the Partnership for Education in Newark to conduct public surveys about the region's school system challenges — a grant that some characterized as a "waste of money." The foundation also has refused to disclose how much of the new CEO's salary is being underwritten by the gift.
While experts in the field say it is too early to tell whether the infusion of funds will make a difference, others caution that the gift is not nearly enough to solve the region's education problems. "No matter how much we could raise privately, it would still be a small percentage of the overall money we spend," said Newark superintendent Cami Anderson. "So we have to use that money wisely to drive innovation. We also need to make our public dollars stretch further than they do now."