After $100M to Newark, Zuckerberg Donates $120M to SF Schools

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, and his wife, Priscilla Chan,have given the San Francisco Bay Area public school system a boost through a $120 million donation spread over the next five years.  

USA Today reports that this is an allocation from the $1.1 billion in Facebook stock that was pledged last year to non-profit Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

“Education is incredibly expensive and this is a drop in the bucket. What we are trying to do is catalyze change by exploring and promoting the development of new interventions and new models,” Chan, said in an interview at Facebook’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters.

The first allocation of $5 million will be given to San Francisco school districts and will focus on principal training, classroom technology, and student transition from 8th grade to 9th.  Their areas of interest are based on discussions with administrators and area leaders.

This was the first major public appearance of Chan, a pediatrician, who married Zuckerberg on May 19, 2012, the day that Facebook’s stock went public.  Chan said her main focus is children and Zuckerberg’s is connecting the world, so in this project, their altruistic worlds overlap.

In 2010, they joined Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in an effort called Giving Pledge, which was established to encourage the country’s wealthiest individuals to donate most of their fortunes.

Zuckerberg, 30, and Chan, 29, gave the largest donation of 2013, $1.1 billion to the Silicon Valley Foundation.  Although the median yearly pay for American CEOs is more than $10 million, Zuckerberg took a pay cut in 2013 and received a symbolic $1.

A gift given to Newark, New Jersey’s public schools was criticized because there are no signs that it has made much difference in the success of those schools.  Some have even implied that the bulk of the donation went into the pockets of high-paid contractors and consultants. This controversy has changed the way Zuckerberg and Chan plan to handle future donations.

“The schools and programs that the folks put in place, only now are they ramping up and students are starting to go through them. So you won’t know what the outcomes are until like 5, 7, 10 years from now,” he said. “That said, I think there are some things that are going generally better than we’d expected and some things that we’ve definitely taken as lessons.”

Chan, appearing on the Today Show, discussed she and Zuckerberg’s charity, Startup: Education.  Eun Kyung Kim reports that Chan, in her first TV interview,  said that Zuckerberg taught an after-school program in entrepreneurship, and she has taught, as well.  This has given them an upclose and personal look at the problems in the Bay Area school system.

In an article for Forbes, Kerry A. Dolan points out that Zuckerberg believes that the world’s most innovative community should not, at the same time, be the home of struggling public schools.