Zuckerberg and the Schools – Private Money Pushing Agenda?

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June 20, 2011; Source: NPR | NPQ has long expressed concern regarding the direct investments of billionaires into public systems. In this case, a full on fight has broken out in Newark, N.J., where Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg invested $100 million in a reform agenda and invited other donors – hedge fund managers, venture capitalists and technology billionaires to do the same.

The problem? Well, apparently this reform agenda was not one that that parents were invited to participate in. Lucious Jones, a parent and PTA member commented to NPR that there is no trust with community members. "There's been no community meetings. There are parents, there are community people who really want to be involved – they want to be in on the ground floor," he says. "We want to see community schools. We want to see functioning traditional public schools."

And elsewhere in the NPR story, Bill Howard of Bethany Baptist Church comments that it appears that there are no discussions going on with educators either. "So when I say to him, 'Talk to educators,' he says to me 'I'm talking to the educators!,' except I can't meet any he's talking to," Howard says. "He's asked me who he should talk to and I've recommended people. They haven't heard from him yet. So the mayor may prove to be absolutely right, he may prove that the ideas he has are the ones we've been waiting for, but poor me, I just don't think so."

This leads some to believe that the school system reform is driven by corporate ideas and interests. "It's driven by corporate notions of how one might run an efficient system of schooling,” says Paul Trachtenberg a professor of education at Rutgers University, “not really by focusing professionalization of education, but rather the reverse, of de-professionalizing the schools and assuming that if you're successful as a corporate manager, you can run a school system."

And finally, according to this article, there are those that believe that, smelling big money, some are attempting to profit by the situation, in particular, the new acting state commissioner of education who founded the consulting firm which wrote the reform plan priced at $1 million. A former school advisory board member says, “It’s like they’ve gone completely tone deaf.” —Ruth McCambridge

  • Geri Stengel

    Classic example of how not make a contribution. The very first step is to sit down with the people you want to help and find out what they need, how they communicate within their community, what holds the community together