Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is most certainly "liked" by the good folks of Newark, NJ. You probably heard about the announcement on Friday's Oprah show. It was one of the worst kept secrets in the country.
Zuckerberg has agreed to donate $100 million to improve the long-troubled school system, and he also challenged others to match his generosity.
Newark, N.J.'s public school system is one of the lowest performing districts in the country.
Zuckerberg has no personal connection to Newark. He is a Westchester County native, and lives in a modest Palo Alto home with his girlfriend. He is America’s second-youngest self-made billionaire with a worth of $6.9 Billion, according to Forbes Magazine.
Zuckerberg met Newark Mayor Cory Booker at a a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho just two months ago. The rest, as they say, is history.
The two sat at the same table one night and Booker took the opportunity to share stories about how he had moved into one of his crime-ridden city's most dangerous neighborhoods and rode along with police on late-night patrols. Booker is a charismatic former Stanford football player.
Zuckerberg said he knew that night that Booker was a "real leader," adding that he was the kind of guy he wanted to invest in.
The donation could be a well-timed publicity move. "The Social Network," a movie about Facebook's origins written by Aaron Sorkin, will be released this Friday, and initial reviews suggest that Zuckerberg is not portrayed well. A well-timed donation could help bolster a soon-to-be-tarnished reputation for the young billionaire. Oprah objected to that timing. She said for one, Zuckerberg wanted to remain anonymous. She said the reason for last week's announcement instead of earlier this summer is because this is the beginning of her fall season.
As soon as the money was donated, the debate on how to spend it began.
One educator says Newark should boost pay for standout teachers and consider hiring back some of the educators laid off because of budget restraints. Another suggests setting up virtual learning programs that let students chat with top teachers.
Newark isn't the first city school system left with the decision on how to spend a sizable gift.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates awarded tens of millions of dollars in school grants to the Tampa, Fla., area and Memphis, Tenn.
Gates' foundation has also given $150 million over the past eight years to New York City schools, where graduation rates have increased.