April 13, 2011

New Jersey Schools Awarded Grant, Thanks to Facebook

In New Jersey’s largest city of Newark, five high schools were lucky recipients of a generous lump of cash thanks to a certain grantor. The person, however, is not usually known for philanthropy, rather his fame as a social networking genius.

That’s right. The founder of Facebook himself Mark Zuckerberg (News - Alert) announced six months ago that he was donating a total of $100 million to Newark schools to be dispersed in installments. The first installment reached Newark city classrooms this week after the city’s school advisory board argued their opposition to receiving said grants. State officials turned over the board’s decision and the first five schools were able to get their money.

BARD High School Early College Newark and Sakia Gunn High School for Civic Engagement each received $175,000 grants while Newark Leadership Academy, Newark BRIDGES High School and Newark S.T.E.A.M. Academy each received $125,000 grants. The five schools received an additional $50,000 each to help them open in the fall.

Despite the do-good attitude and positive spin this sets in New Jersey’s educational system, for public school teachers and employees, the news is hardly anything to be excited about. Approximately 400 public school employees could be laid off next year to close a $75 million hole in the district’s $970 million budget. These new alternative schools are to be co-located within the existing schools.

"I congratulate the educators of the new schools," said Rutgers professor Junius Williams, who leads the university’s Abbott Leadership Institute. But, he added, "most Newark schools will suffer cuts in teaching staff, social workers, counselors, and programs that will make schools interesting for the vast majority of Newark schoolchildren." (via nj.com)

The ongoing debate over funding for new schools or charter schools is likely to persist as long as charter schools are dipping into public funding. Opponents of charter schools feel that their rights to public education are being undermined by charter schools coming in and using up their federal funds. On the other side, all of the research conducted has pointed to the under funding that charter schools receive; advocates for charter schools feel as if they are being cheated out of sufficient funding. Some states provide charter schools the capital to start up schools but this is rarely the case; usually, they must rely on independent practices to start up a facility. This is where a donation, like that from Mr. Facebook (News - Alert) himself, comes in handy.

There have been mixed reviews, mostly cautious praise, on the grant money.

"My initial reaction is this is good for kids, so I’m thrilled about it," said school board member Nakia White."I think it would also be great for kids to utilize that money to bring down class sizes and hire back some of the stellar teachers that we may have lost.”

Michelle Amodio is a TMCnet contributor. She has helped promote companies and groups in all industries, from technology to banking to professional roller derby. She holds a bachelor's degree in Writing from Endicott College and currently works in marketing, journalism, and public relations as a freelancer.

Edited by Janice McDuffee