Nightly News | September 24, 2010
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now, to education. We told you about this story last night. Today it became a reality. The 26-year-old founder of Facebook , Mark Zuckerberg , gave a $100 million gift to the city of Newark , New Jersey public school system. And now the questions start about what happens next, where the money goes. All this happening, by the way, as NBC News gets ready to launch Education Nation here at 30 Rockefeller Plaza , shining a spotlight on education issues nationwide. Our education correspondent Rehema Ellis with us tonight from Newark with more. Rehema , good evening.
REHEMA ELLIS reporting: Good evening, Brian . For months, the mayor of Newark has been working on a plan to improve his city's schools. which have some of the worst graduation rates in the nation. Today his not so secret, secret plan was made public.
Ms. OPRAH WINFREY: CEO and founder of Facebook . Come on out here guys. Come on out.
ELLIS: The official announcement came on one of TV 's biggest stages, " The Oprah Winfrey Show ."
Mr. MARK ZUCKERBERG (CEO and Founder, Facebook): ...who's first project will be a $100 million challenge grant.
ELLIS: Mark Zuckerberg , CEO and founder of Facebook , announced an unprecedented grant to help Newark 's struggling schools. The shy 26-year-old billionaire wanted to make an anonymous gift, but was convinced to change his mind.
Mr. ZUCKERBERG: Every child deserves a good education, and right now that's not happening.
ELLIS: New Jersey 's Republican Governor Chris Christie and Newark 's Democratic Mayor Cory Booker joined forces to make a bold agreement on how to use the funds. The governor will turn over some control of Newark 's state run schools to the mayor, who scored a coup in getting Zuckerberg 's donation.
Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE: It's about the children.
ELLIS: Some of the project details include setting up a $100 million education foundation . Newark must raise $100 million in matching funds. The city must also raise another $50 million to serve disadvantaged kids. In Newark , 150 teachers at the KIPP SPARK Academy have high hopes for the project.
Ms. DIANE ADAMS (Newark Teacher): I am so excited for what that could mean for the children and the families. I can think of a billion stories in my head right now.
ELLIS: In a city where 45 percent of the students do not graduate from high school , education experts say Newark is now taking on another enormous challenge.
Mr. DERRELL BRADFORD (Excellent Education for Everyone): If they fail, every foundation, every mayor and every governor is going to look at this as proof of why this will never work and it may never happen again.
ELLIS: But the governor, the mayor and the philanthropist say they're determined to make Newark a model for success. Oprah asked if Zuckerberg was doing this in an effort to improve his image, considering a new movie is coming out, "The Social Network," that cast him in a negative light. His reply? No. Zuckerberg says that it's just a movie and his real life is
nowhere near that dramatic. Brian: Rehema Ellis on this big story in Newark , New Jersey . Rehema , thanks.