Blow through $400 million, guest on Oprah!

Chris Christie: You’re a pugilistic GOP media darling who just blew through a $400 million federal education grant – maybe intentionally.

Cory Booker: You’re a big-league mayor whose city Oprah Winfrey’s poured millions into, trying to shake off a watchdog’s call for federal investigation into your prized police force. And you wanna be governor someday.

Mark Zuckerberg: You’re the youngest billionaire in the world and the subject of a major movie (out in days) detailing how you swiped Facebook from your Harvard classmates.

Oprah Winfrey: You’re benefactor of Newark, famous friend of Cory Booker, and you can do just about anything in the world you want to.

These 4 people
come together Friday on the Oprah Show, where Zuckerberg, a 26-year-old making his first-ever major philanthropic gift, will announce a $100 million gift to Newark and Chris Christie will announce he’s ending 15 years of state control of Newark schools and ceding their control to Cory Booker.

Booker gets a major role in choosing a new superintendent and redesigning the system – think charter schools. Christie retains the right to yank control back.

No information that I know of confirms this deal’s been in the works for any time, but it may explain a few things. Booker was a noticeably weak supporter of Jon Corzine’s re-election; his lukewarm disposition convinced me more than anything else that Corzine was toast. And he lauded Christie’s cap ideas – early. What does Booker – an obvious rival for the 2013 governor’s race Christie keeps saying he doesn’t care about (hm …) see in Christie? Is it opportunity?

Look, the bottom line is what’s good for Newark kids. And an influx of that much education cash (particularly in light of Christie’s Race to the Top failures) is encouraging news. But when the hubbub dies down, there are some questions, and you might have more:

  • what role will the Newark School Board play in school direction?
  • will charter school approval rules be relaxed for Newark?
  • if the school board’s traditional role is diminished, where will oversight for the running of Newark’s schools come from?  

  • Comments (7)

    1. parnell44

      Very interesting, Rosi.  

      No information until now about the turnover?  

      Nice set of questions re: Booker’s connection to Christie’s policies.  Was a deal struck?  We’ll probably never know, unless someone speaks out.

      But you’re right; in the end this should be better for the school children of Newark, as long as the focus is on PUBLIC education.

    2. deciminyan

      So Christie gets his coveted national attention on Oprah and Newark gets much needed funds for their kids.  But what about Christie’s impact on the kids in Camden, Elizabeth, Paterson, and the rest of the state?  Is the guv as eager to solve these problems as he is to be on Oprah?

      Mark Zuckerberg gets to alleviate some of the criticism he’s about to face when the movie comes out.

      Don’t get me wrong – I applaud the corporate donation as long as there are no strings attached with regard to curriculum.  But this is a one-shot publicity stunt for Christie, Booker, and Zuckerberg.  It solves nothing.  (Although it reinforces Christie’s hypocrisy in promoting Booker to a dual-office holder in the mayor’s new role as Special Assistant to the Governor.)

    3. SmartyJones

      As one might expect, the NYT has an article on the Oprahpalooza.

      However, I thought the comments more interesting.  Of course, they run the gamut from this being a great thing to if we taxed these bastids appropriately, we wouldn’t need gifts – we could actualy fund public schools.

      I found Comment # 20 by dc lambert particularly poignant.  I didn’t know how to isolate it to link here, so I’m adding the whole comments URL:…  

    4. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

      You ask the best question of all:

      But what about Christie’s impact on the kids in Camden, Elizabeth, Paterson, and the rest of the state?  Is the guv as eager to solve these problems as he is to be on Oprah?

    5. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

      Charter schools are notoriously picky-choosy about the kids they choose. Troubled kids. Nonnative kids with limited English language. Mentally disabled kids. Physically disabled kids. Kids that act out. Those kids tend not to be present in charter populations because of the schools’ skills at keeping them out. They cherry pick, no matter how loudly they swear they don’t. That  artificially inflates their scores by comparison to regular public schools that teach all the kids, even the ones that take extra time and resources.That’s one way they get to be money-makers for their owners and one reason why so much of the cash that flows into them is public money.

      That said, I think the whole concept of charter schools may be changing as people wise up and demand more accountability. And we haven’t seen Booker’s formula for spending the $100 million in his pocket. It may not all be about charters. Maybe Booker’s experiment will be a winner. Maybe he’ll change everything. I really hope so.  

    6. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

      That was very much worth reading. Thanks for pointing it out. This is one teacher’s response to the $$ gift to Newark and the possibility it goes toward charters:

      Comment 20.

    7. Jersey Shore John

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