Mark Zuckerberg and his spotlight-averse wife Priscilla Chan announced Friday that they will be donating $120 million over the next five years to public schools in the Bay Area, starting with $5 million for the San Francisco, Ravenswood, and Redwood City school districts.
“Education is incredibly expensive and this is a drop in the bucket,” Chan told the Associated Press in an interview at Facebook's Menlo Park campus Thursday. “What we are trying to do is catalyze change by exploring and promoting the development of new interventions and new models.”
The first $5 million of the gift will catalyze change by paying for principal training, classroom technology, and "helping students transition from 8th to 9th grade." According to the AP, Zuckerberg and Chan's Startup: Education foundation decided where to allocate the money.
The gift is the largest part of a pledge Zuckerberg made to the Silicon Valley Community Fund for $1.1 billion in Facebook stock. That pledge followed an earlier gift of $500 million, also in Facebook stock. The Silicon Valley Community Fund is a non-profit group that helps connect donors with charitable places to put their money.
"I just think that philanthropy is a fancy way to say that you care about others and that you want to serve others. And that's been a part of me for as long as I can remember," said Chan, who is currently a resident in Pediatrics at UCSF and has a nice taste in wedding gowns.
Back in 2010, if you recall, Zuckerberg donated $100 million to public schools in Newark, New Jersey in a media blitz that included an appearance on Oprah and a lot of standing in the shadows of then-mayor Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie. Four years later and that donation has so far failed to have an impact. According to a recent New Yorker piece, most of the money was spent on buying out contracts for teachers unions so they could be replaced with a performance-based system for educators. Millions more went to consultants and construction projects that did little in the way of actually educating students. By March 2013, the school district was broke and facing a $57 million budget shortfall.
Zuckerberg defended the New Jersey spending yesterday, explaining it away as an investment for the future. "The schools and programs that the folks put in place, only now are they ramping up and students are starting to go through them," Zuckerberg said. "So you won't know what the outcomes are until like 5, 7, 10 years from now." With the West Coast donations, Zuckerberg admitted some additional community input would be necessary.
As for Chan and Zuck's own experience as educators: Chan put in some time teaching elementary school science at a local private school and Zuckerberg once held an after-school program on entrepreneurship. According to Chan, it "actually ended up being awesome."