Money doesn’t improve education

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ZuckerbergMoney doesn’t improve education, especially when the same idiots running the place into the ground are the ones doling out the money.  Mark Zuckerberg found that out the hard way.  He dumped $100 million down a rat hole known as Newark, NJ.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg received much media attention in 2010 when he announced his plan on Oprah to give $100 million to help Newark, New Jersey’s fail public schools.

What he got for it was a life lesson.  Maybe.  We’ll have to wait and see if he actually learned anything.  We’d have been happy to tell him what the outcome would be, and we’d have done that for a paltry $10 million or so.

However, as observed by Dale Russakoff in the New Yorker, four years later Zuckerberg’s funding has been spent on labor contracts and consulting fees with no improvement in student performance.

‘Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read,’ Vivian Cox Fraser, the president of the Urban League of Essex County, told the publication.

We’re on record as believing that the biggest problem in public schools is “educators.”  Those would be the graduate of the thousands of “schools of education” spread all around the country who are engaged in a constant battle to reform education.  Like the War of Poverty and the War on Drugs, the battle to reform education is lost.  It can be won, but not with the army of “educators” we’ve got in the field today.

The New Yorker, not a place where one would expect to find what we would consider core conservative values, had this to say about the problems in Newark.

Decades of research have shown that experiences at home and in neighborhoods have far more influence on children’s academic achievement than classroom instruction.

In other words, culture is what inspires performance in the classroom and in the workplace.  “At home.”  “In neighborhoods.”

Where do the kids in Newark’s schools grow up?  In single parent households, more often than not headed by an unemployed single mom with limited education.  As for neighborhoods, Newark’s neighborhoods are run by street gangs.  That’s the culture of Newark.  It’s the culture of just about every inner city, and every inner city’s schools are a mirror of the disaster that is Newark’s public schools.  Last year in New York City, 80% of high school graduates required remedial math and/or English to succeed in community college.  Not Yale.  Community college.

In come the “reformers” to save the day.  The problem is, in Newark, the reformers are just more of the same people who were watching over the existing problem.

…reformers argued that well-run schools with the flexibility to recruit the best teachers could overcome many of the effects of poverty, broken homes, and exposure to violence. That usually meant charter schools, which operated free of the district schools’ large bureaucracies and union rules.

We are a proponent of charter schools.  We are not a proponent of charter schools run by the current system.  We are also staunchly opposed to dumping money, even Mark Zuckerberg’s money, into the schools without having a solid plan and a method that will hold those running the show accountable.  When it comes to schools, we’d approve of public stoning as an accountability method, but that would likely set off trigger warnings to the education establishment.

The plan called for significant amounts of philanthropic support, which would require no public review of spending priorities. Zuckerberg apparently agreed and pledged $100 million to Booker and Christie’s cause, though the Facebook founder admitted he knew little about urban education reform.

Booker and Christie found a fool and soon parted him from his money.  We’re surprised they settled for a paltry $100 million.  In 2010 Zuckerberg was worth over $20 billion, a lousy $100 million is crumbs from his table.  They talked him out of the cash with no plan to spend it, no reviews to make sure there were results, and they were dealing with a guy who didn’t know anything about urban education.  It’s a marriage made in Hell.

The bureaucrats got results.  Exactly the results we’d expect.

Newark now has 50 new principals, four new public high schools, a new teachers’ contract that ties teacher pay to student performance, and an agreement by most charter schools to serve some of the neediest students. Consultants have been paid upwards of $1,000 per day to come up with solutions to the city’s public school problems.

Note a couple of things here.  First of all, let’s remember that Newark’s public school system was a miserable failure when Mark Zuckerberg came to save the day.  Newark got four new high schools and 50 new principals.  The article doesn’t note how many failing schools were closed or how many principals running those failing schools were fired.  We’d guess none and none.

The teachers got a new contract.  So, it would appear that even though it appears that the new schools were charter schools, they got stuck with unionized teachers.  Great.

The above two short paragraphs are the definition of “crony capitalism.”  That’s the result for the city and the “educators.”  What was the result for the kids?  Remember them?  It was “the kids” that everybody said they were spending Mr. Zuckerberg’s money to help.

To date, students in Newark’s public schools are not performing any better than prior to the Christie-Booker-Zuckerberg endeavor. There is yet another “plan,” however.

Needless to say, “the plan” involves spending lots more money – only this time it will be taxpayers’ money not Zuckerberg’s.  Don’t expect student performance to improve if the city implements that plan either.


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About Author

Michael Becker is a long time activist and a businessman. He's been involved in the pro-life movement since 1976 and has been counseling addicts and ministering to prison inmates since 1980. Becker is a Curmudgeon. He has decades of experience as an operations executive in turnaround situations and in mortgage banking. He blogs regularly at The Right Curmudgeon, The Minority Report, Wizbang, Unified Patriots and Joe for America. He lives in Phoenix and is almost always armed.

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