Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have announced a commitment of $120 million over five years to improve education for underserved communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The commitment is the largest allocation to date from the $1 billion the couple pledged to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in December. To be awarded through the foundation's Startup:Education fund, the gift will be used to provide educators with the resources they need to innovate in the classroom, support students in underserved communities, and help train a new generation of school leaders — priorities established by local educators and community leaders.
The first $5 million of the gift will be used to provide computers and connectivity, teacher training, and parent outreach in the Ravenswood School District in East Palo Alto/Belle Haven, Redwood City School District, and other high-need communities in the region. Funds also will be used to support leadership opportunities for students, more effective transitions for students moving from middle school to high school, and leadership training for principals.
Chan, a pediatrician, has taught science at a local private elementary school, while Zuckerberg has run an afterschool program on entrepreneurship at a public middle school in Belle Haven, something that Chan helped arrange. "We talked about the education work that we wanted to do and she made this point to me that I wasn't going be one of those people who [try to help by giving] money to places but had never taught anything myself," Zuckerberg told the Associated Press.
The gift comes at a time when critics are questioning the efficacy of Zuckerberg's $100 million gift in support of efforts to improve the long-troubled public school system in Newark, New Jersey. First announced in 2010, that gift has exacerbated disputes between Newark superintendent Cami Anderson, teachers unions, parents, and community leaders, even as a significant portion of it has been spent on consultants and contractors.
Arguing that it is too early to evaluate the impact of the gift, Zuckerberg admitted that he and local leaders in Newark could have done a better job of engaging the community and soliciting ideas about how to spend the money. "I think one of the things that we took away from this is that we wanted to do our next set of work in a place where we can engage more directly with the community and a place that we care about a lot," Zuckerberg told the AP. "The Bay Area just fit that well."