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Newark Money Won’t Go for Private-School Vouchers

Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark, New Jersey’s struggling school district won’t be used to fund private-school vouchers and may result in some school closings, Mayor Cory Booker said.

Booker, joined by Zuckerberg, 26, and Governor Chris Christie, said he wants his city to become the “first example of a public school turnaround and” the overhaul may lead to the shuttering of some city schools.

“Everything’s on the table,” he said today at a press conference in Newark.

Zuckerberg, who announced he will make the donation through his newly created Startup: Education foundation, said he chose Newark based on the “leadership” of Christie and Booker. He said he researched education and looked at other cities and decided to direct the foundation’s first “challenge grant” to Newark based on conversations with the two.

“The city has a good foundation already and there are structural reasons why the city is good for this, but really this is more an investment in them,” he said.

The district, with about 39,000 students, has been under state control since 1995. Christie will give Booker a larger role in running the schools, and the mayor will also get a say in picking a new superintendent. Almost half of all students in the district don’t graduate from high school.

Matching Funds

Booker said the city has begun collecting matching funds for the donation. He declined to say which private donors or foundations have pledged money so far. The school district will require accountability from teachers as a component of any improvement plan, he said.

He and Christie declined to specify how the money will be spent.

Christie, a proponent of charter schools in Newark and statewide, said he expects resistance from the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s teachers union.

“This is about fixing our public schools,” he said. “For those folks who want to try and fight it -- all it shows is that they are defenders of the status quo. Candidly, I don’t give a damn.”

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