Just about a year ago, on September 24, 2010, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and NJ Governor Chris Christie publicly called for a “bold, new paradigm for educational excellence in the country” on the Oprah Winfrey Show. With a $100 million pledge from Zuckerberg’s foundation “Startup: Education,” the three agreed to join forces to transform Newark’s public schools, and make the city a shining example.
But now, The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey’s Open Governance Project (ACLU-NJ) and the Newark-based Secondary Parent Council (SPC) — an organization of parents and grandparents of Newark public school students — have filed suit against the city, for refusing to release records concerning the funding that Zuckerberg pledged. The SPC filed open public records requests to shed light on the city’s decision-making, but they’ve said that Mayor Booker’s response indicated that his conversations about the subject are private.
According to the ACLU’s website, the city claimed that the communications between Mayor Booker and Zuckerberg “were not made in the court of the mayor’s official duties.” But SPC says that they have a need and right to know how the money will ultimately be spent to serve Newark’s public school students.
“When Mayor Booker accepted this donation, he stressed the importance of getting input from the community members it affected most. If this is truly an investment in our city’s future, we need to see the transparency we’ve been promised,” said Laura Baker, who filed the open records request as a representative of the SPC and has a granddaughter in Newark public schools.
Seeing no other way to get the information, the group, represented by the ACLU of New Jersey, sued Newark for documents and emails relating to how the money will be deployed.
Additionally, the ACLU is inviting the public to Tweet the social media mayor — @CoryBooker — with this message:
Update the public on Zuckerberg’s gift, @CoryBooker. Please release all records on the FB donation; the public has a right to know. #FB$
Read more on the ACLU’s web site.