Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Facebook Money Causes Rift in Newark


The $144 million raised so far to help turn around Newark schools appears to be having a side effect—dividing the residents of this city into two camps: those who are excited about what the money can do and those who are suspicious of the donors' motives.

This week, nearly $1 million of the total was awarded to five new high schools, immediately sparking cries of unfairness from some city officials and residents, who said the move neglected older, failing schools.

"I know you're not supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth," said Councilwoman Mildred Crump at a public hearing Wednesday evening at City Hall. "Well I'm checking this one out." Residents in the audience applauded her sentiment. She added that she was "absolutely livid" to learn about the award from a newspaper, saying the donors "dismissed our existing schools."

Another council member complained that the plans for the money are secretive, and likened the process to the Tuskegee experiment, when black men in the South were unwittingly enrolled in a medical trial that left their syphilis untreated.

Upon hearing of the analogy, Mayor Cory Booker said in an interview: "That's unfortunate. This is ultimately about creating innovations and change in the city of Newark. It's unfortunate that the rhetoric is distracting from the reality."

That reality includes only 41% of students passing the English-language arts exam at grade level, Mr. Booker said, and 55% of students graduating in four years (with only 22% doing so by passing a state high school exit exam). Loud complainers aside, the mayor said, the "real silent majority are the people really yearning for educational options for their kids," which he said is evidenced by the tens of thousands of children on charter-school waiting lists.

He noted that the new schools were in the works even before the huge donations were made.


Facebook Money Causes Rift in Newark


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