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An Education in Making a Difference

BCG’s J. Puckett on Transforming Schools
October 07, 2010 by J. Puckett
October 07, 2010

Now that the handshaking, backslapping, and cheering have subsided, skeptics are starting to take a hard look at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the public schools in Newark, New Jersey. The 26-year-old billionaire announced the grant on September 24 on The Oprah Winfrey Show amid a renewed outcry over America’s education crisis, stimulated by the disturbing documentary Waiting for “Superman.”

Such philanthropy certainly is laudable. But cynics rightly point out that unless Newark radically changes the way it spends money on education, Zuckerberg’s generosity is unlikely to significantly improve test scores and graduation rates. With a $940 million annual budget, Newark already spends more on each of its 40,000 students than practically any district in the country—with chronically dismal results. And even if Zuckerberg’s gift is fully matched by other donors, bringing the total to $200 million, those funds will be spread over five years. That’s just a 4 percent annual increase.

J. Puckett is a senior partner at The Boston Consulting Group, which acted as an advisor to the Dallas and New Orleans school districts.