The Partnership for Education in Newark was set up to match Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million gift. It estimates the outreach effort and advertising and public relation costs will total $1 million.
One of the first acts in the reform process has people knocking on 91,000 doors to ask Newark residents for suggestions on how to improve the schools. The chairman of the state Assembly's education committee tells the Star-Ledger of Newark the results will be predictable and the cost is high.
A legislator is criticizing how officials are spending money in New Jersey's largest city in the wake of a $100 million gift from the founder of Facebook.
"So much hope was generated from the $100 million gift, and to have the first million spent in a questionable manner is not the way to start this program off on the right foot," Assembly Education Chairman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) said. "The premise of community outreach is always a good idea, but $1 million is an awful lot of money to reach a result which is kind of self evident."
Fredrick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, questioned why Newark is spending at all before hiring a superintendent who will drive a targeted reform effort (Superintendent Clifford Janey has been told that he will not be rehired). Instead, PENewark has created a million-dollar "suggestion box," Hess said.
"Once he’s banged on every door and heard a litany of complaints, I’m not sure how that will position him to better transform the Newark schools," Hess said of Booker. "If they want the community and parents engaged in an improvement process, asking people to fill out a questionnaire on their doorsteps isn’t the way to do it. This feels more like the census than community organizing."
Rutgers-Newark history professor Clement Price supports PENewark, saying the enthusiasm surrounding their outreach is positive. But, Price said, the effort is raising more questions than it is answering.
"It’s great that education has found its way to the near center of civic discourse in Newark," he said. "What I don’t know is how this moment will be seized upon and for what purposes. My fear is that in rushing an agenda for civic engagement there cannot be real civic engagement."
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