Facebook-funded foundation to send Newark school layoff victims back to classroom

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on June 03, 2015

Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson helps detail the "New Paths Newark" program at the Newark Historical Society Wednesday morning.

 

NEWARK — With a new round of layoffs looming, the city's public school system is launching a new initiative aimed at softening the blow for many of its employees who receive pink slips. The program, dubbed "New Paths Newark", will provide tuition money and a stipend to layoff victims who opt to pursue two or four-year college degrees, or other special certification.

It is being funded entirely by $2.7 million from the Foundation for Newark's Future, the organization created to manage the $100 million Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated to the city in 2010. It will be managed by the Morristown-based Community Foundation of New Jersey.

At an event held in downtown Newark Wednesday morning, Superintendent Cami Anderson said she hoped many of the employees who have been let go could use the opportunity to make a fresh start on a new career.

"As we sort of downsize our large bureaucracies, we have to make sure we provide top-notch, high-quality education for those who are impacted by those choices," she said.

The downsizing, which has resulted in the layoffs of more than 400 district employees, has come mainly from the city's increasing reliance on charter schools and private educational facilities. Newark's school system at one time managed more than 100 schools in the city, but now oversees only around 60, according to Anderson.

Earlier this year, the district announced it would need to cut another 155 civil service jobs including clerks and support staff before students return to school in September. Schools have also been asked to cut their budgets before next year, which may result in the loss of teachers and other employees.

Anderson noted that many of those who will be let go during the layoffs to come will be out of job regardless of their job performance, due to union contracts that require cuts to be made based on seniority, title and other factors.

The program will be available to all ex-district employees affected by the layoffs. Each participant is eligible for up to $57,000 in funding depending on what type of education they choose to pursue, and the money can be cut off if they fail to maintain good academic standing or attain their degree in a timely manner.

Kimberly Baxter-McClain, the president and CEO of the Foundation for Newark's Future, said she considered the program an investment not just in the future of the layoff victims, but also their children, many of who attend city schools.

"When we embarked on this conversation, we always start with the children. It becomes very clear that you can't effectively serve children and ignore their families," she said.

"We do believe that providing people who for no fault of their own are going to find themselves unemployed, a pathway not just to income, but a pathway to a better life for them and their families."

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