Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan are bringing their education philanthropy closer to home, today announcing a $120 million commitment to underserved Bay Area schools through their Startup: Education fund. The gift comes on the heels of community backlash against the fallout of their $100 million commitment to Newark public schools, announced four years ago with great fanfare (though no coach-jumping) on “Oprah.” Goodwill toward the funding evaporated when parents and teachers began to believe that the small army of white-shoe consultants calling the shots were moving too quickly and deaf to community concerns.
This time around, Zuckerberg and Chan are emphasizing that they are all ears when it comes to hearing from teachers, students, and parents. “We’ve listened to the needs of local educators and community leaders and we’re excited to support them,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
Based on that input, Zuckerberg and Chan intend to direct the first $5 million of the commitment toward “encouraging innovation in the classroom, helping to train a new generation of leaders and supporting student development” in high-need districts in East Palo Alto and San Francisco. In practical terms, that will translate into providing schools with computers, connectivity, and wraparound technology training for teachers and parents. Over the next five years, the remaining funds will expand on those initiatives while also supporting the opening of new district and charter schools in those same communities.
The couple say they are proud of progress made in Newark as a result of their grant, including a new teacher contract and a 10% jump in the graduation rate. But it is telling that they have not pledged any additional funds to the still-struggling city, which earlier in May elected as mayor a high school principal opposed to the reforms put in place by Superintendent Cami Anderson, who was hired with Zuckerberg’s blessing.