Facebook CEO Announces $100M To NJ Schools

Donation Could Change Public School System

NEWARK, N.J. (CBS2/AP) — Talk about picking up some new friend requests.

Proclaiming that he believes in the education visions of New Jersey’s Republican governor and Newark’s Democratic mayor, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg on Friday pledged to set up a foundation to donate $100 million to Newark’s schools over the next five years.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports

The 26-year-old Internet tycoon announced his first major gift on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show on the same day an unflattering movie about Facebook’s early days, “The Social Network,” was having its premiere.

“Well, Newark, is really just because I believe in these guys, right?” Zuckerberg told Oprah Winfrey on her TV show.

“These guys” are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a cost-cutting governor who has become a star of the Republican party, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, whose celebrity connections have made him New Jersey’s next highest-profile politician. The three appeared together Friday on Winfrey’s show.

Wearing a gray T-shirt, black jacket and tennis shoes, Zuckerberg said he chose to make his philanthropic debut in education “because every child deserves a good education and right now that’s not happening.” He said he wants other children to have the same opportunities he had.

Zuckerberg said his gift is a challenge grant, and Booker said he is lining up money from other foundations. The goal is to raise $100 million more to match what Zuckerberg is to contribute over five years through his new foundation called Startup: Education. Booker also will raise $50 million more to serve the “disaffected youth” of the city.

Newark schools have been plagued for years by low test scores, poor graduation rates and crumbling buildings. The system was taken over by the state in 1995 after instances of waste and mismanagement, including the spending of taxpayer money by school board members on cars and restaurant meals.

Last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced $290 million in education grants, including $100 million for the school system in Tampa, Fla., and $90 million for the Memphis, Tenn., district. The Gates Foundation also has given more than $150 million to New York City schools over the past eight years.

The Newark district, which has about 40,000 students and a $940 million annual budget. That’s about $23,500 per student — among the nation’s highest.

Few details were disclosed Friday morning about how Zuckerberg’s money is to be spent.

Winfrey did advocate hiring Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of schools in Washington D.C., as Newark’s next schools superintendent. Other New Jersey education advocates have suggested the same move.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan also appeared via satellite.

“I’m so proud of these guys, and they are doing the right thing by the children of our country,” he said. “We have to put politics and ideology aside. We have to invest in our children.”

Zuckerberg grew up in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in 2002 and attended Harvard before dropping out to work full time on Facebook. He has no connection to Newark other than knowing Booker, a charismatic 41-year-old politician who has the ear of President Barack Obama and has helped the city get major donations from Winfrey and New Jersey’s Jon Bon Jovi.

The announcement comes a week before “The Social Network” opens widely. The movie, whose tagline is “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies,” portrays Zuckerberg as taking the idea for Facebook from other Harvard students.

Winfrey asked Zuckerberg about the film.

“Oh, well, I mean it’s a movie, it’s fun,” Zuckerberg said. “A lot of it is fiction, but even the filmmakers will say that. … I can promise you, this is my life so I know it’s not that dramatic. The last six years have been a lot coding and focus and hard work, but maybe it would be fun to remember it as partying and all this crazy drama, so you know who knows? Maybe it will be an interesting story.”

For Christie, the deal may be a way to recover from the biggest misstep of his administration so far: Last month, the state missed out on a $400 million federal education grant because of a simple error on its application. Christie fired the state’s education commissioner in the aftermath.

The donation also sets the stage for Christie’s plans to announce statewide education reforms next week.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

  • Kenneth Isidore

    What about Schools in New Orleans LA. They are kids in need of help. I say to all the rich people. Please Help the children in New Orleans. They need a better way of life. Show them that GOD IS GOOD. They need homes and education very bad. The people of NEW ORLEANS are Mothers And Fathers who could not leave or return to NEW ORLEANS because this is there home. In NEW ORLEANS the french quarters is not the only reason that people live there. New Orleans is full of love and people who want a better life in a city where they lived for all of there lives. Give us more hope for our children. If our kids do not get better homes and education , we are failing to GODS WORK. This is for the kids all the kids in the world. GOD BLESS ALL.

  • vader

    How did this mark zuckerberg become so rich…he cant be that smart if he is blowing it on these union thugs so they can carve it up for their own pockets and still leave these kids as dumb as an ox…..

  • Steve

    Hope some of that money goes the sports programs!

  • cdchase

    New Jersey public school students are in desperate need of this benefit. I’m not talking about the kids in the “better” neighborhoods, either. I hope to God this benefit goes to the forgotten children of Roselle and Newark. As a frequent visitor of Roselle and Newark, I am an eye witness of the atrocity known as public education in poorer areas. The kids in “nicer” areas like Cranford…even Linden have better tools provided them than the less palatable areas. Gov. Christie: PLEASE distribute these funds to the “less appealing” areas FIRST…these precious kids are truly full of promise. Watch what a little consideration can do! The last school year was pitiful!

    • Leo

      The parents of the NICE schools pay higher taxes

      • cdchase

        BooHooHoo…Roselle pays high taxes as well…with VERY LITTLE to show for it. Shop around the 07302 area..the complexions are darker on the NORTH SIDE of the RR tracks….then look at the area on Google…I have dear friends in that are(I am from Chestnut Hill (Phila, PA); where the NICE schools are)…many of the apt complexes are income-based housing…these people are the majority of the population of Roselle…the privileged few live west side of Warinanco park…at a high cost for example..a house on East 3rd Av paid a little over $5,740.00/year in real estate taxes. A home in Chestnut Hill (phila) costs half that annually. And Chestnut Hill is a NICE place. Just another case of polarization.

      • cdchase


  • Nemesis xyz

    We want: Lunar cops, lunar schools, lunar cafeterias. Earth is for the birds. Write to your favorite Astronauts to terraform a moon for you. Write to the AUASS (Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences).

  • Curtis A. Shields

    Why does every time someone try to make a positive difference, someone comes along and try to defeat it?

  • ezflyer

    For years, the Newark school system gets the most money allotted to them by the state and as of now, that has shown no rewards. Look at the quality of education there, the test scores and so on. That has never changed and this donation will not make a difference. $940 million dollar budget a year for a school a school district and for what? That money should have been distributed the the schools that perform, not fail and this bandaid will not improve the quality, just line the pockets as it has been. We will see in about six years whether or not it created an impact. Another record broken by NJ, another “highest cost in the nation” title.

  • Avi Schwartz

    Such a big waste of money going to Newark schools. It would be better used at Teaneck schools instead.

  • zekarias Erkoa Yimam

    Well it is wonderfull donation. The donation is more than finding facebook. But Mark Zuckerberg would have taken into account students of developing or underdeveloped countries. I hope he would

    • John C

      Let’s tak care of our own before we go to developing or undeerdeveloped countries.

    • Leo

      Why dont you donate to these contries?

  • Okie Driller

    i’m spotting my briefs this makes me feel so goooy. Rewarding a bunch of union hacks with so much money – changes that are needed will be lost and so will another generation of students. why did this geek not include half this amount to vouchers !

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