Details were not released and may not be final, and the rescue will not happen in time for this school year.
Although Christie called Tepper "the lead private funder," the president of New Jersey After 3 said he had yet to speak to Tepper about the donation, let alone ink an agreement.
As part of the arrangement, Christie said he would seek a waiver from the federal government to redirect money from unspecified after-school programs that are "less effective" and funnel funds to New Jersey After 3.
"This is the model for what we should be doing for these types of programs across the state during difficult fiscal times," he said of the public-private partnership.
New Jersey After 3 said that since 2004 it has partnered with schools and community groups to provide education-based after-school programs aimed at low-income students. It has served 75,000 students in that period, leveraging public dollars for far more in private donations, it said.
But its $15 million state appropriation in fiscal 2005 was whittled to $5 million in Christie's first year in office. His fiscal year 2011 budget brought the state's share to $3 million, and the current budget eliminated funding.
After-school programs supported by New Jersey After 3 nearly disappeared, some surviving only by charging parents higher fees. Two years ago there were six programs in Camden; last year, there was one.
An attempt by Democrats in the Legislature to restore funding was line-item vetoed by the Republican governor in June. In recent days, when it became clear that New Jersey After 3 was on the verge of shutting down, Democratic legislators ramped up criticism of the governor.
"This would have been much more welcome news before the school year started, not conveniently right before an election," Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D., Bergen), a critic of the funding cuts, said in a statement. "It's unfortunate that the administration did not begin preparing to address this issue before funding ran out in July."
Christie said the state simply could not afford to maintain the program - especially because he believed there would be "an appetite in the private sector" to support it instead. "We said we would approach things differently in this administration . . . given the challenges we have from an economic and fiscal perspective," Christie said Monday.
Mark Valli, founding president and chief executive officer of New Jersey After 3, said the waiver from the federal government would take time to be approved, so there would not be a restoration of the group's after-school programs until at least the 2012-13 school year.
"I came in today planning to close our doors," Valli said.
Christie's announcement means a lot, Valli said.
"Having a public statement literally at the eleventh hour is important to make it clear to potential donors that there is a renewed interest in a public-private partnership," he said.
Christie would not say how much money he expected would be raised from private sources or how many after-school programs that relied on New Jersey After 3 would be saved. He also said he did not believe the names of the potential donors needed to be released.
Tepper's group, Better Education for Kids, airs TV and radio advertisements pushing legislation disdained by unions, such as eliminating seniority-based teacher tenure and increasing salaries for teachers with better performance evaluations.
The group also distributed thousands of backpacks and school supplies to students in urban school districts this summer.
Tepper, 60th on the 2011 Forbes magazine list of the richest Americans, lives in Livingston and is a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is no stranger to educational philanthropy. Several years ago he gave $55 million to Carnegie Mellon University for the newly renamed David A. Tepper School of Business.
Through Better Education for Kids, Tepper declined to comment.
Contact staff writer Matt Katz at 609-217-8355, email@example.com, or @mattkatz00 on Twitter. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at philly.com/christiechronicles.