MENLO PARK, Calif. – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are donating $120 million to public schools in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The gift, which the couple discussed in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, will be spread over the next five years. It is the biggest allocation to date of the $1.1 billion in Facebook stock the couple pledged last year to the nonprofit Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
Education is incredibly expensive and this is a drop in the bucket, Chan, a pediatrician, said in an interview Thursday at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. 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 $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 with the transition from eighth to ninth grade. The couple and their foundation, called Startup: Education, determined the most urgent issues in discussions with school administrators and local leaders.
The gift comes at a time when critics are still questioning what became of Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the public school system in Newark, New Jersey.
Four years ago, he announced the donation flanked by then-mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But a recent New Yorker article criticizes the donation and the chain of events it set in motion. While well-intentioned, the money has so far failed to fix the city’s ailing school system. The process lacked meaningful community input, and much of the money has been spent on high-paid contractors and consultants.
The story’s most poignant quote is from Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, who said, Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.
Zuckerberg said the Newark experience is a big influence on our thinking with the Bay Area donation. Taking the long view, he’s quick to argue that it’s still too early to measure the results of the New Jersey gift.
Chan, 29, and Zuckerberg, 30, have made philanthropy a central theme of their life together. The two made the largest charitable gift on record for 2013. That $1.1 billion donation was on top of another $500 million the couple gave a year earlier to the Silicon Valley foundation, which helps donors allocate their gifts.
Last year, Zuckerberg was No. 21 on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people, right behind Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and ahead of well-known billionaires such as activist investor Carl Icahn and philanthropist George Soros.