It’s hard not to notice the timing — or the venue — of Mark Zuckerberg’s latest move. Word came out last night that Facebook’s CEO plans to announce a $100 million donation to Newark’s ailing public school system on the Oprah Winfrey Show tomorrow. You get an education, you get an education, everybody gets an education! New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Newark mayor Cory Booker will be seated beside the Hoodied One on the most famous couch in America. Newark schools, which the state took over in 1995 and were outed earlier this week for laying off exceptional teachers and retaining incompetent ones, certainly need the help. But by timing the donation a week before the premiere of The Social Network and mere hours before the 26-year-old jumped past Steve Jobs to No. 35 on the Forbes 400 list makes it look like the PR move of the month. We guess Zuckerberg hasn’t been listening to our cries that “the Rashomon-like” movie tells his side of the story too.
Does Zuckerberg have any particular connection to the state? According to the Times, the answer is no, other than a burgeoning friendship with Booker. The two met in July at a conference and “began a continuing conversation about the mayor’s plans for the city.” The entire annual operating budget for the Newark school district — whose schools continue to have the lowest test scores and graduation rates in the state — is about $800 million. Zuckerberg, whose fortune Forbes pegged last night at $6.9 billion, will be launching a foundation for education with this donation as the initial gift.
As part of the arrangement, Christie will be giving up some control of the long-troubled state-run operation to Booker, whose Obama-esque hype is still going strong.