What happened to Zuckerberg's $100 million Newark gift

What happens when you combine two political celebrities, one tech billionaire, powerful unions, and a municipal school district long considered a failure? The resulting mix of often indiscernible successes and failures are cataloged in The New Yorker's new examination of Newark school reform.

The players are familiar to most: former Newark mayor, now-Sen. Cory Booker; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Much was made of Zuckerberg's $100 million pledge to help rebuild Newark's schools in 2010, but that font has largely run dry, and it's unclear if it will have much of a lasting positive effect.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Newark Mayor Cory Booker visit EDUCATION NATION, an educational summit on Rockefeller Plaza.
Charles Sykes | NBC

"Everybody's getting paid, but Raheem still can't read," Vivian Cox Fraser, the president of the Urban League of Essex County, told The New Yorker.

Booker won a special election for U.S. senate in October 2013, and Christie has been embroiled in the "Bridgegate" scandal that threatens his political career. Meanwhile, the city's leading mayoral candidate has rallied support to "take back Newark" from an "Interloping Outsider" superintendent left to carry on the mission outlined by Booker, Zuckerberg and Christie after all three have turned away from regular involvement.

"This is 16-dimensional chess," Cami Anderson, the embattled superintendent, told the author.

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Perhaps, though, the difficulties experienced by would-be reformers are not due to the many competing variables, but to the lack of sufficient community input.

"[E]ducation reform... comes across as colonial to people who've been here for decades. It's very missionary, imposed, done to people rather than in cooperation with people," Shavar Jeffries, another Newark mayoral candidate, told the magazine.

—By CNBC staff