“I am so grateful that so many are stepping forward after Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement to answer our call to action and share our commitment in the limitless potential of Newark’s students,” Booker said today in an e-mailed statement.
Booker is raising funds needed to match the grant, which Zuckerberg plans to make through his newly created Startup: Education Foundation. The mayor, a Democrat, hasn’t released a list of donors.
Booker said Sept. 25 that “everything is on the table” as he and Chris Christie, New Jersey’s Republican governor, attempt to overhaul schools in Newark, a city of 280,000 where 1-in-4 live at or below the federal poverty level and almost half of all students don’t graduate high school. The district, with about 39,000 students, has been under state control since 1995.
Among the options, Booker said, are potentially closing schools and firing teachers. The grant money won’t be used to fund private-school vouchers, he said.
Bill Ackman, the founder and chief executive officer of Pershing Square Capital Management LP, said a foundation he set up has pledged $25 million to help Newark’s schools.
“Cory Booker is the most outstanding person I’ve ever met,” Ackman said in a telephone interview. “He’s an effective mayor,” he said, adding that Christie is giving Booker a larger role in Newark education.
“It’s one of the worst school systems in the country,” Ackman said. “It’s a needy population, and it’s a small enough geography that it is feasible to make a difference.”
Ravenel Curry, 69, who with his wife Elizabeth founded New York-based Eagle Capital Management in 1988, said they have contributed to the Newark project. Curry wouldn’t say how much they donated.
“We all want Newark to do well,” Curry, whose company invests about $6 billion on behalf of clients, said in a telephone interview. “If it works in Newark, which many would say is the most difficult city in the U.S., it could work everywhere else.”
Major donors will have significant influence over what happens with Newark’s schools, Ackman said.
“Education is the future of this country,” Curry said. “We have a knowledge economy and if we don’t educate everybody, we’ll be falling behind.”
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