(Guest Blog post by Mike McShane, learn more about him)
I have to admit, when I watched the Oprah episode in which Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to the Newark public schools, I cringed a little. It was not because I think Mark Zuckerberg is a bad guy, I don’t. It was not because it was some PR stunt to save face after an unflattering portrayal in a popular movie, I don’t think it was. It’s not because I don’t like Cory Booker, or Chris Christie, in fact, I think both are pretty awesome dudes. Rather, what made me cringe was the idea implicit in giving to the Newark Public Schools-that the reason the schools in Newark stink is because they don’t have enough money.
Perhaps a little history would be helpful. Public schools have been languishing in the Garden State longer than I have been alive. In 1985, the state Supreme Court ruled in Abbot vs. Burke that the disparity between the rich and poor districts violated the Constitutional provision that “the Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years”. As part of the three Abbot-related rulings, 28 (later expanded to 31) so-called “Abbot Districts” were identified and targeted for special consideration and increased levels of funding. Newark is one such district.
A little bit of snooping on the District’s website shows a total operating budget for 09-10 at $871,324,656. Divide that number by the 08-09 enrollment (lets just assume no change this year, for argument’s sake) of 39,992 and you get a whopping $21,787.47 per student.
Now look, I’m not trying to argue that educating kids in Newark is easy or cheap. I’m not trying to argue that their funding should be cut in any way. What I am arguing is that there is no possible way that it costs more than $21,787.47 per year to teach kids in Newark.
A simple question: do you think that if given $21 thousand-plus dollars a year, Catholic schools would be able to teach these kids successfully, regardless of disability, English language learning status, or any issues that they brought into the classroom? Apparently, if the Newark Public Schools need $100 million more dollars from Mark Zuckerberg, they can’t. I’m inclined to think Catholic Schools could.
Due to a real lack of funds, Catholic schools are closing across the country. They have proven time and time again because of the people they employ and the shared mission they strive to achieve, that they can succeed in teaching students while being good stewards of tuition and philanthropic support. So if Mark Zuckerberg (or tax payers for that matter) wants to spend his money in these austere times wisely and in a way that will actually affect change, he should send it to Catholic Schools.