Zuckerberg And Wife Give $120 Million To Bay Area Schools

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan are donating $120 million to schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, the pair announced in the San Jose Mercury News.

It’s the billionaire’s second big education gift, coming four years after a $100 million donation to Newark schools that drew tremendous praise at the time but has recently been severely criticized as ineffective.

The gift will be dispensed over five years through Zuckerberg’s Startup:Education fund. Early grants will focus on providing more computers to schools, while in the long-term Zuckerberg hopes to create new schools, both charter and conventional, to increase education choice in the area and, ultimately, quality. Zuckerberg indicated that a chief goal of his giving is to improve outcomes for low-income students as well as those from minority groups.

Zuckerberg and his wife lauded his first donation to Newark in their announcement, saying that the city’s graduation rate had risen 10% and that the city “now has the leading teacher contract in the country that was developed with teachers to reward good performance.”

However, that donation has recently come under withering criticism after a New Yorker article suggested most of the money has gone to waste. According to the article, it took years for the district to formulate a plan of action while tens of millions of dollars were frittered away on consulting fees. Millions more have gone into a new labor contract for the cities schools. Many in Newark have criticized reformers for ignoring the concerns and interests of local residents, as well.

Vivian Cox Fraser of the Urban League of Essex County summed up the feelings of many in the city when she told the New Yorker,”Everybody is getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”

Zuckerberg told the Associated Press that his experience with Newark was influencing his approach to his new donation. He has pledged to listen to local leaders and tailor his grants to what they say their greatest needs are. Such dialogue is the purpose behind his first $5 million grant to add more technology in certain schools and to improve the transition of students from 8th grade into high school.

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