Critics Call for Greater Transparency Around Donations to Newark Public Schools

Amidst calls for greater transparency from political and educational leaders, Newark mayor Cory Booker has disclosed the most detailed information to date about the source of $43 million raised to match Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million pledge to help improve Newark public schools, the Star-Ledger reports.

Although Booker had previously given estimates of the amount raised, he had not disclosed the total sum or specific amounts contributed by individual donors. Of the $43 million in donations, Pershing Square Foundation head William Ackman contributed $25 million; venture capitalist John Doerr, who helped found the NewSchools Venture Fund, contributed $10 million; investment bankers Elizabeth and Ravenel Curry gave $5 million; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the remaining $3 million.

While private support for public education reform in the United States is nothing new, the magnitude of the gifts that could flow into the Newark school system has spurred political and education leaders to call for greater oversight of the donations and how they're spent. State senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen County), who sits on the committee that will rule on the nomination of Christopher Cerf, acting state education commissioner, said the growing trend of private dollars being spent on public schools could lead to new legislation.

"We're seeing a whole new cottage industry growing in the operation of quasi-public schools," Weinberg told the Ledger. "If you want to deal in the public arena, then I'm not sure you can expect anonymity."