Justin: Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went on the Oprah Winfrey Show and announced he had something to give away.
Mark Zuckerberg: One hundred million dollars!
Justin: That is right. Zuckerberg gave away $100 million to help public schools in Newark, New Jersey, where the school district is struggling with low test scores, buildings that are in bad shape and a graduation rate of just 55%, 20-points below the national average. But how will all that money be spent?
“There’s so much; early childhood efforts, new school models, supporting teachers, which I think is going to be a big area.”
Justin: Newark’s mayor, Cory Booker, says he wants to improve Newark’s school system and has been given a lot of credit for attracting the donation from Zuckerberg. But Mayor Booker doesn’t have full control over the funds. And, in fact, the state of New Jersey took over control of Newark’s public schools 16 years ago because they were in bad shape. But yesterday, near the one year anniversary of the big donation, state officials said they would be spending $600,000 on teachers.
Teachers who come up with innovative classroom programs can apply for a share of the money. And some has already been spent on opening new schools, making the school day longer and recruiting new teachers.
It is a start. But what will happen to the rest of the money? Students have their own two-cents and say there is a lot to be done.
Student: The books that we got are not good enough. They be messed up, written in, pages torn up.
Student: Maybe he could give us better, nutritional lunch and more writing tools.
Justin: Cami Anderson is the new superintendent for the Newark school district. Her job is to fix the failing school system that already spends close to $24,000 per student each year, more than twice the national average.
Cami Anderson: Ultimately, I am the chief executive, the superintendent, the person responsible for improving the school system. Period.
Justin: She has already changed some things and broken away from district policy by giving principals more power to hire staff. But that is not all. Newark’s superintendent has made some big changes. She hired seventeen new principals to shake things up and re-energize the district.
Now, back to the rest of that money. How will it be spent? Both the mayor and superintendent say they share similar goals, like investing in technology for students, helping teachers and staff get the additional training they need and starting early by getting younger students into programs that will help them get off on the right foot.
But as much as they would like to move quickly, they know that real reform will take years.
Justin Finch, Channel One News.