South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka is skeptical early about a $100 million donation from Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg to the Newark Public Schools, suggesting that the reported pairing of Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker and the mayor’s apparent designation as overlord of the funds triggers charter school alarm bells.
“Charters are proverbially considered a part of the Newark Public Schools,” said Baraka, the principal of Central High School in addition to South Ward councilman. “We need teachers badly, but who’s to say it’s going to happen? The real issue is democracy and what to me looks like the buying of a school system. That’s bizarre. No one can disagree Newark is in need of reform but it can’t be bought.
“As for the governor,” Baraka added, “after he rails on about dual jobs he’s going to give the mayor another one – education czar.”
John Sharpe James, former candidate for at-large council and the son of former Mayor Sharpe James, was likewise guarded about the prospective infusion of funds in the hands of two known vouchers and charter school advocates.
“We still have a structural deficit in the city and police and firefighters face layoffs,” said James. “The streets are a warzone and the Newark Schools System has a billion dollar budget. Much of that money will be eaten up by school construction costs.”
Steve Adubato, founder of the Blue Ribbon Charter School, the Robert Treat Academy, said of the news, “It’s a great day.”