The funds will be used to launch a foundation to support the city's public schools, which, despite fifteen years of state control, have test scores and graduation rates that are among the lowest in the state. The gift is the largest made to date by the 26-year-old Zuckerberg, whose fortune Forbes magazine puts at $6.9 billion, and is many times larger than any ever made to the Newark school system, which has an $800 million annual operating budget. The announcement also represents a rare moment of accord in a state long troubled by budget crises, scandals, political infighting, and, most recently, the loss of a $400 million federal Race to the Top grant because of a clerical error.
In conjunction with the gift, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Newark mayor Cory A. Booker will announce on Friday on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" that Christie will cede some control of the state-run school system to Booker. The changes would not formally relax the legal power the state seized in 1995, when it declared Newark's schools a failure and took control of the system. Instead, Christie plans to give the mayor a major role in choosing a new superintendent and redesigning the system while retaining the state's right to reassert its control at a future date.
"We can't speculate too much at this point about what the specifics [of the redesigned system] would be," a person briefed on the plans said. But on issues such as expansion of charter schools, rigorous testing, and rewarding teachers and administrators whose students succeed, "their vision is very much in step."