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Spreading Facebook's Bounty to Newark

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, September 23 2010

Here's an interesting intersection of tech and politics, or at least public policy. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is, reports the New York Times, donating $100 million to the Newark (NJ) school system. And as part of the deal, Garden State governor Chris Christie, a Republican, is ceding some control over that city's education system to Newark's Democratic mayor, Cory Booker:

Mr. Zuckerberg, 26, who grew up in Westchester County and now lives in California, has no particular connection to Newark. But in July, he and Mr. Booker met at a conference and began a continuing conversation about the mayor’s plans for the city, according to people familiar with their relationship.

Mr. Booker, an advocate of school choice, has been traveling the country, meeting business leaders and celebrities, proselytizing and raising money for Newark.

What isn't clear is whether Zuckerberg has some ideas for how you reform education, a la Bill Gates, or whether the hundred mil is funding in support of Booker's vision. The former would be fascinating, and more, it seems, will be revealed on tomorrow's "Oprah," where Booker and the increasingly chatty Zuckerberg will appear. What is clear, though, is that there's tech woven throughout this whole arrangement. Zuckerberg, of course, made his fortune by inventing a technology used by hundreds of millions of people around the planet. But more than that, Booker put himself in the position to attract such a sizable contribution by making Newark's story known, in part through social tools like Twitter, and the million-plus followers he's been able to attract there.