By George McIntire
Facebook CEO and Silicon Valley titan Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan just revealed that they are donating a whopping $120 million to Bay Area public school districts. The power couple made the huge announcement in an interview with the Associated Press, which laid out the details about where that cash would be spent: “The first $5 million of the $120 million will go to the San Francisco, Ravenswood, and Redwood City school districts and will focus on principal training, classroom technology and helping students transition from the 8th to the 9th grade. The couple and their foundation, called Startup: Education, determined the issues of most urgent need based on discussions with school administrators and local leaders.”
Zuckerberg and Chan have become some of the most prolific donors in Bay Area philanthropy and have consistently outshone their tech peers. This latest gift isn’t even their largest, nor is it their first to public schools — Zuck gave $100 million to Newark public schools in 2010, a deal brokered by then Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
However there is much cause for concern about this new cash drop after a recent long-form investigation by The New Yorker revealed that the Newark gift has had minimal effect on improving the schools there and that a large chunk of the cash went to people outside of the school systems, such as high-priced consultants. The 11,000+ word New Yorker expose can summed by this quote: “Everybody got paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”
When asked about Newark by the AP, Zuckerberg responded that it’s "a big influence on our thinking" and mentioned that it’s too early to tell what the results from this donation will be. "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."
We certainly hope that the Raheems of Newark and the Bay Area certainly learn to read, because $220 million is an awful lot of money to spend without being certain of the return.
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