Paul Dykewicz

The New Yorker article quoted New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie saying about urban education before the donation, “We’re paying caviar prices for failure.” Newark’s Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, who previously has touted the benefits of vouchers and charter schools, personally sought out Zuckerman, then 26, and successfully pitched the idea of the donation.

Newark hired 50 new principals, opened four new public high schools and introduced merit-pay incentives for teachers. At Zuckerberg’s insistence, Booker also rounded up $100 million in matching donations.

The key problem became how the money was spent. Without tight controls, large sums went to consulting firms.

“The going rate for individual consultants in Newark was a thousand dollars a day,” the New Yorker reported.

The magazine quoted the president of the Urban League of Essex County saying, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”

Despite questionable results from the $100 million donation in Newark, Zuckerberg and his wife are lavishing their generosity on the public schools in the San Francisco area. The mission is especially significant to Chan, who herself attended public schools.

The $120 million gift is just a fraction of the $1.1 billion in Facebook stock that Zuckerberg and his wife pledged to donate last year to the nonprofit Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Chan explained to reporters that the educational donation to San Francisco-area public schools is aimed at exploring and promoting new models to enhance learning.

Zuckerman and his wife certainly are not the first philanthropists who have chosen to support public education reform and I predict with confidence that they will not be the last. It has become almost fashionable among the well-healed to put money into education and the allure of leaving a legacy of progress in our public schools is enticing.

Indeed, the foundations of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, the family of Walmart founder Sam Walton and California real-estate and insurance mogul Eli Broad took key roles in championing charitable funding aimed at creating an educational renaissance. However, Gates and his wife also have other charitable interests that they are helping through Gates Foundation efforts to aid the world’s poorest people in lifting themselves out of hunger and poverty; to harness advances in science and technology to save lives in developing countries; and to build strategic relationships to promote policies to address important global challenges.

The Gates Foundation states on its website that its mission is to achieve results that depend on the quality of its partnerships. Ultimately, successful people who donate the money will want a return on their investment and if public school education officials want the resources to continue flowing, they need to deliver on their promises of reform and progress or risk having the funds go to other charities that can demonstrate the results benefactors seek.

Paul Dykewicz is the editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications and a columnist for Townhall and Townhall Finance.