Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Now Ain't This A Kick In The Head...

Well, well, well...

Mark Zuckerberg Gave New Jersey $100 Million To Fix Newark's Schools, And It Looks Like It Was A Waste
In the fall of 2010, Mark Zuckerberg announced on Oprah that he'd be making a generous gift to Newark, New Jersey.

As Oprah said in her Oprah way, "one ... hundred ... million ... dollars" would be given to Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the three began the Startup:Education foundation.

The plan was to turn Newark into what Zuckerberg called "a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation," spent on retaining the best teachers, and creating environments that would produce successful students and, one day, graduates.
Isn't that what we're always hearing? We need to invest in education. Teachers should be paid more. Children are our future. Aren't these the kinds of things that the left loves to trot out? Aren't these the same tired cliches we've heard for decades? Throw in the one about it being a good day when education has all the money it needs and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber and you've got the perfect storm of platitudes.

Except this:
Between 2010 and 2012, The New Yorker reports that "more than twenty million dollars of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms with various specialties: public relations, human resources, communications, data analysis, [and] teacher evaluation." Many of the consultants were being paid upwards of $1,000 a day.
Got that? Twenty million dollars was blown on consultants without a damn thing to show for it. The project was shuttered, not a single child was bettered, and the program was forced to close early after two years, with $20 million wasted. Oh, consultants were paid handily, but it doesn't seem to have translated into, well, anything.

So, no, we don't need more money. Newark was already spending more per pupil than most other school districts before Zuckerberg came along with the magic Facebook fairy dollars. With a hundred million smackers on the line, that should have hired hundreds of teachers, bought thousands of computers for classrooms, and made all kinds of difference.

But instead, cronies were rewarded, money was squandered, and the kids were the true losers.

That is all.


Opinionated Grump (Rich in NC) said...

But, it IS New Jersey, and Newark is just down the street from Tony Soprano's House.

Rich in NC

PS - I can say that 'cause I was born and raised in Jerzee and only escaped to NC in 2010

Anonymous said...

Throwing money at the problem didn't fix it and the corrupt government squandered funds to fix the problem.

Where IS my "shocked" face?

Joseph in IL

SJ said...

If the problems were in HR, data analysis, and communications, then the consultant fees might have been money well spent.

Or they might have still been poorly spent. (Not every consultant can actually fix the problem that he is brought in to help with...)

Still, I can't disagree with you. I doubt that Newark School District focused their spending on the core problem. I also doubt that even if they did, the money would be well spent.

Heck, I've heard stories from former employees of a (different) large urban school system. The District always had money trouble, and teachers were always scrambling for supplies. Things like copiers didn't work reliably. Buildings were old, which led to other costs. (If the building and its core heating system were built in the 30s and 40s, then it is probably manpower-intensive to run. And expensive to rip out and replace...)

The District worried more about the once-a-year Student Count than about students remaining in classes for the entire year. Because the yearly budget allocation from the State depended on the headcount on that one day.

And the basement of the building was full of unused books/computers that had been purchased on the last day of some previous fiscal year. Because if the school principal ended the year with a budget surplus, he would get a smaller budget the next year.

I think that the governance/management model of locally-run public schools in a small town doesn't scale up well to large, urban school systems.

And people have spent the last half-century discovering this, and trying to work around the problems.

(Caveat: education systems work better if the entire culture and family structure supports learning and education. But $100 million won't fix that, no matter how well spent.)

Anonymous said...

Wait, wait, hold on. Are you really saying that you cannot fix cronyism and corruption with money?

Lissa said...

Mike read me the fabulous headline last night:

"Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million gift elevates Newark's failing schools to a model of educational excellence."

[He pauses. Lissa expresses surprise and confusion but decides "hey, good for them!"]

" Just kidding, they pissed all the money away."

Robert said...

Well, I'm sure that the consultant's kids got sent to some excellent private schools, so *somebodys* kids got a good education out of it.