The Hechinger Report carries an interview today, with journalist Dale Russakoff, author of “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” The book tells the story of Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million "gift" to Newark Public Schools five years ago.
HR wants to know how the money was spent? A question I've been asking since 2011. Despite a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, we still don't even know exactly how that money was spent except that it was used to create a couple of new privately-run charter schools and that about a third of it was used to pay crony political and educational consultants and contractors through a slush fund set up by former mayor Corey Booker and Gov. Christie. We also know that it provided a nice tax break for Zuckerberg.
Most telling part of the interview is when HR asks Russakoff about former superintendent Cami Anderson’s One Newark plan. She responds:
There are tremendous numbers of parents and teachers in Newark who felt that the schools needed radical change, but there was no acknowledgement that those people should be playing a role in this One Newark process. I asked Cami Anderson about the lack of communication and she said the One Newark plan is, as she kept calling it, 16-dimensional chess, which was a way of saying it’s incredibly complicated. She said if you brought families in, of course every family was going to have some issue and if you fixed that issue you would create an issue for someone else. She felt it was important to make the decisions that she thought were the best for the families and the kids. In doing that, she missed a lot of input that was critical.Anderson's response to Russakoff goes right to the heart of corporate-style, top-down school reform's failure (even by its own standards of success), it's elitism and lack of transparency. The good news is that the very parents and community activists that Anderson held in such disregard, have run her out of Newark. The bad news is that her replacement is Chris Cerf who helped engineer the whole Zuckerberg affair.
Now that Anderson's gone. Booker's gone, Zuckerberg's gone, Oprah's gone, and Christie's off running for president of the United States, we're all left asking: where did the money go?