Critics Denounce Spending for Facebook's $100M Newark Gift

First funds spent on advertising not education, critics say

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Newark Mayor Cory Booker, left, laughs as Mark Zuckerberg, right, founder and CEO of Facebook, talks about his donation of $100 million to help Newark public schools during a press conference at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, N.J., Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010. Also there is N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, not in picture.

    Six weeks after Facebook's founder announced a $100 million donation to reform schools in Newark, critics definitely don't like some of the early spending choices.

    One of the first acts is knocking on 91,000 doors to ask Newark residents for suggestions on how to improve the schools. The Partnership for Newark, which was set up to raise $100 million to match young billionaire Mark Zuckerberg's gift, expects that effort, plus advertising and public relations costs, will total $1 million.

    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.

    "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," said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, a Democrat from South Plainfield. "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."

    Defenders say the outreach campaign will help determine how the remainder of the $200 million will be spent and will help nurture community support for the project.

    "The whole idea is to have everything aligned and have one clear strategy," said Jennifer Holleran, acting director of Startup: Education, the umbrella foundation founded by Zuckerberg. "It's all to be targeted around the reforms."