Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has just announced that he and his wife, pediatric resident Priscilla Chan, are donating $120 million to improve Bay Area schools.
The money will go to Zuckerberg’s Startup:Education fund, which he set up back in 2010 with a $100 million investment in the public schools of Newark, New Jersey.
“Helping improve the quality of public education in this country is something we both really care about. Priscilla has devoted her life to helping children from underserved communities as a pediatrician and as a teacher. I’ve been engaged with education issues over the past few years, and last year I taught an after-school program on entrepreneurship at a public middle school in the Belle Haven community of Menlo Park,” writes Zuckerberg.
And he explains his reasoning behind investing in the Bay Area in a Facebook post:
“The Bay Area is one of the most prosperous places in the world, but there are so many schools here that don’t have the resources they need. Students from low income and minority backgrounds are the hardest hit, which means fewer end up graduating or attending college.”
This announcement comes as some are questioning how much Zuckerberg’s previous investment in Newark’s school really helped. In a lengthy piece in The New Yorker, Dale Russakoff says that “Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg had a plan to reform Newark’s schools. They got an education.” Apparently, allocation of that $100 million went in large part to buying out old teacher contracts, while some went to various construction projects and other consultants. In the end, people are questioning exactly how much of Zuck’s money went to help the kids. Can more students read because of Zuckerberg’s contributions? The school district itself now faces a huge budget gap.
Zuckerberg says that he’s learned a lot, but still has hope for the Newark school system.
“In Newark, a lot of the work we started is still underway, but we’ve already seen some good results. Newark now has the leading teacher contract in the country that was developed with teachers to reward good performance. New district and charter schools run by organizations with a track record of success have started, including 50 new principals. Across the district, the graduation rate has grown by 10 percent. It’s still too early to see the full results in Newark, but we’re making progress and have learned a lot about what makes a successful effort,” Zuckerberg says of the donations he made to the Newark schools system.
Zuckerberg says that the first part of the money will go to provide computers and “connectivity” in Bay Area schools, teacher training, and “leadership opportunities” for students.
Image via Priscilla Chan, Facebook