Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made waves Thursday when he announced that he'll be hosting a fundraiser for Gov. Chris Christie's re-election campaign in Palo Alto on February 13. His spokesperson said he "admired" Christie's record on education and looked forward to working with him in the future.
If someone praising Christie's record on education made your head spin, you're not alone. People in New Jersey know that Christie has been clicking 'dis'-like on public education since day one of his administration.
In total, Christie's cut funding to New Jersey's schools by $3.6 billion since taking office while, at the same time, giving billions in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations. As a result, hundreds of school distiricts - urban and suburban - had to lay off teachers, cut arts and language programs, expand class sizes, and place fees on clubs and sports teams.
The last time Zuckerberg made a big splash in New Jersey was with his $100 million contribution to Newark public schools in 2010. There is a great post detailing everything that was wrong with the grant: the lack of transparency, accountability, and parent input, as well as the way it ultimately furthers the corporatization of public education.
But here's the real kicker: This year, Christie is trying to change the school funding formula in a way that will take as much as $50 million from Newark schools. It actually lowers per-student funding for poor students and English language learners throughout the state - the very students Zuckerberg said he is trying to help.
In other words, Christie wants to take away half of what Zuckerberg offered Newark in the first place.
Zuckerberg is being rightly criticized for supporting a man whose record on marriage equality and women's health is at odds with the values of Silicon Valley and New Jersey. But isn't it particularly damning that at the same time Zuckerberg is raising money for Christie, Christie is putting the squeeze on the students Zuck claimed to champion?
Mark Zuckerberg can't pretend to be a friend to Newark students while raising money for the very politician trying to undermine their schools at every turn.
We don't know whether Oprah will cover that angle, but there is a way you can spread the word. We set up a petition through Signon.org telling Zuckerberg to unfriend Christie - sign your name.
Rob Duffey is Policy and Communications Coordinator for the New Jersey Working Families Alliance.