Zuckerberg $100M School Donation in Holding Pattern

Newark School Reform: About That $100 Million…
Wonderfully detailed long-form piece on the present state of the Newark school system—it’s challenges and opportunities—and the elephant in the room.

When Anderson unveiled the plan last February, however, she was heckled at public meetings by residents who accused her of trying to rob them of their neighborhood schools. “Cami Anderson, I have not seen such trickery since the devil took over the Garden of Eden,” one of her detractors told her at a budget hearing. Naturally, the teachers’ union has happily stoked the outrage. “I’m all for school reform,” Del Grosso chuckles. “But this is the Dr. Kevorkian approach.”

The budget crunch has also forced Anderson to cut arts and music programs at some schools. Residents find this bizarre at a time when so many philanthropic dollars are flowing into Newark. “I don’t understand why you are doing this,” a frustrated Newarker asked at the budget meeting. “Where’s the Facebook money?” Good question.

The answer: matching funds are still being raised. The mayor has raised $54 million so far, just over half the needed funds to unfreeze Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s donation. Mayor Booker claims a big fundraising announcement will be coming in the next few months and I think he will succeed at closing the gap.

I am curious about the governance of the money. The total combined donation of $200 million is about a fifth of the nearly $1 billion Newark schools budget. How will residents get a say in where that money is directed?

Some read questions like this and the significant contributions from hedge fund managers as an effort to buy out the education system and run it at a profit (or some other nefarious scheme). I’m going to go on record and suggest that’s a load of crap.

BusinessWeek interviewed two main opponents of the mayor for the counterpoint perspective. One, State Senator Clifford Minor, ran a failed campaign for the mayor’s office against Booker.

The other was Joseph Del Grasso, president of the Newark Teacher’s Union. The union, whose membership enjoys a median salary 30% more than the rest of the state, has had an almost militant opposition to the mayor since his his swearing in. In 2007, they paid for a charming campaign to cover the city in billboards decrying the prevalence of violent crime, but offering no solutions.

When it comes to opposition to reforming the education system in Newark, I can’t help but think of that Upton Sinclair quote:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Or maybe another more common quote: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Fresh Air Fund sends our younger Newarkers to camp

Families fight nerves, relish excitement as Greater Newark Fresh Air Fund helps send kids to summer camp

Nasir, who first went to camp two years ago — also through the Fresh Air Fund — said he suffered from a little separation anxiety back then. Despite how close he is to his dad, he said, doesn’t share his father’s anxiety this go ’round.

“I can’t wait to see friends that I made and to make new friends,” he said with a blush. “I love sports, so I’m also looking forward to playing sports and having fun with my cabin mates and counselors.”

The Fresh Air Fund is doing the Lord’s work. More information and make a donation at their website.

Soccer rivalry gives way to celebration

Ironbound turns into huge party as Spain, Portugal fans come together for rivalry match

In the Iberia restaurant square, the bells were ringing and the kids were dancing, soaked by a spritzing hose and spilled sangria. Crowds in Spain’s yellow and red soccer colors, and Portugal’s red, green and white, rushed in from Ferry Street, some wearing the country’s flags as capes.

Maybe it was the capriciousness of penalty shootout soccer. Or maybe it was the sangria. The Spanish fans danced, and after a brief period of sullen griping, the Portuguese danced with them.

Fun.

Also, validation that I had, indeed, witnessed sullen griping yesterday.

The Health Care Decision, Explained in One Paragraph

The Health Care Decision, Explained in One Paragraph
Which I split into two. This should help separate the spin from the facts in today’s political commentary in the media and on the web.

In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters.

Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.

State votes on higher ed. merger

State Legislature to vote on Rutgers-Rowan-UMDNJ merger today

The controversial bill, which has gone through many changes since Gov. Chris Christie announced the plan in January, would merge Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University and govern them with a joint board. It would also fold most of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) into Rutgers. Rowan also would take over UMDNJ’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford.

Proponents say it will save the state money in the long run, but Rutgers officials testified this week that it would cost the university at least $155 million to refinance its debt if it had to cut financial ties with its Camden campus.

At least they’re not planning to call it University of New Jersey.

Spain beats Portugal, Ironbound sighs

Spain conquer Portugal, self-doubt

A bruising semifinal encounter in Donetsk, Ukraine was won by Spain on penalties, 4-2, after a scoreless tie.

Pretty quiet around here.

Update: Spain beats Portugal and…

Spain beat Portugal 4-2 on penalties to enter Euro 2012 finals and the Ironbound goes wild!

Okay, apparently Iberia is flowing with sangria and mirth (hat tip to the Glocally folks).

I guess I should have walked a little further east. I did see some seriously glum fans in red and green, though.

LeBron glad he doesn’t have to stay in a Newark hotel anymore

LeBron James jokes about not having to stay in a Newark hotel now that Nets are moving to Brooklyn

Letterman continued. “Now that the Nets have moved to Brooklyn, what does that do to you and your teammates?”

“Uh, it does absolutely nothing to me and my teammates,” James said with a chuckle.

“Does it mean you don’t have to fly into Newark?”

“And we don’t have to stay in a hotel in Newark either. We get to be in Brooklyn and have some good times,” James said.

Classy, LeBron.

Investigation of stowaway claims in Port Newark turns up empty

Stowaways Suspected In Container Ship Docked In NJ
I opened this link dreading a scene from Season 2 of The Wire, but after a full day of searching, no evidence of stowaways has been found.

Dock workers rushed to unload stacked containers from a cargo ship that arrived in New Jersey from the Middle East on Wednesday after a Coast Guard inspection team heard knocking for about two hours that suggested stowaways might be inside one of the boxes.

More than a dozen ambulances and law enforcement officials met the 850-foot Ville D’Aquarius when it docked early Wednesday at Port Newark, one of the nation’s busiest ports. Large mechanical cranes began unloading containers from the ship.

By midday Wednesday, all but one ambulance had quietly left the pier. Coast Guard spokesman Charles Rowe said officials have inspected 80 of the 200 containers authorities believe could be carrying people. The ship has 2,000 containers altogether.

Update: Search at Port Newark is completed, no stowaways found

Hess plant brings money, sense of unease to East Ward

$11 Million Riding on Council Vote
The council will be voting next month on a change near the site of the coming Hess “Newark Energy Center,” which will net the city a lump payment of $11 million from the energy company.

Great reporting by Paul Milo at Newark Patch details the sense of unease associated with the unpopular but lucrative plant planned for the East Ward.

Hess has also offered a much better deal to the city than other major developers have in the past, Amador added. Along with the $11 million easement payment, the city will get another $3.5 million advance property-tax type payment, $1.5 million for street trees, $5 million to renovate a stadium in the Ironbound, along with the regular “payment in lieu of taxes” the facility will turn over to the city annually once it’s operating.

But even Amador still has reservations. Earlier this week, Hess asked the planning board for additional time to submit final site plans for the Newark Energy Center. The company is also asking that a sound barrier originally included in the plan be scrapped. Amador opposes both requests.

Revelry Watch: Portugal-Spain Soccer Match Wednesday

Futbol fever: Ironbound prepares for crucial Spain-Portugal soccer matchup

Portugal and Spain face off Wednesday at 2:45 p.m. for the right to play for the European championship on Sunday. Italy and Germany play Thursday in the other semifinal.

With each successive victory over the last two weeks, the cheers in the streets grew louder and the celebrations more raucous for the Portuguese team, which has a larger population here.

Street celebrations over soccer are one of the many charms of the neighborhood. It’s like a mini Portugal Day Festival—Ferry Street literally shuts down for revelers.