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Mark Zuckerberg Wife: Facebook Founder and Priscilla Chan Donate $120 Million to Bay Area Schools

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First Posted: May 30, 2014 02:11 PM EDT
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(Photo : Twitter/Canoe Tech)

Charitable donations have become the latest hope for many underprivileged school districts. However, the influx of millions into decrepit and faltering school systems does not necessarily translate into success and reform.

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, and his wife Priscilla Chan donated a staggering $120 million to underprivileged schools in the Bay Area. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Zuckerberg pledged the donation in an essay in the same newspaper.

"The world's most innovative community shouldn't also be a home for struggling public schools," Zuckerberg wrote. He wrote about his and his wife's involvement in education reform in the area as well as the country in large but also bemoaned the state of neighboring schools.

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"Last year in the Ravenswood school district less than 40 percent of students were proficient on state tests in English language arts and less than 50 percent in math," he wrote. "This means fewer students from low-income and minority backgrounds graduating from high school or attending and succeeding in college."

The money, according to the Mercury News, will be administered by Startup:Education, an organization created by Zuckerberg in 2010 to administer the money donated to Newark. It will help start new public and charter schools in the area as well as buy new equipment for other schools with the remaining money. The first $5 million will go needy schools in the Ravenswood and Redwood City school districts, according to the Mercury News.

Both school districts have responded well to the donation, though they have not hashed out all the details yet. The money will help the schools in need to bridge the digital divide and prepare the students for their future academic endeavors. However, will the expenditure prove successful?

In his essay, Zuckerberg addressed his donation to Newark's school system and praised its successes, including what he says is a 10 percent increase in graduation rates. Admirable, no doubt; however, most of the $100 million he donated to city in 2010 has not reached many.

CBS New York reported that many parents in the beleaguered city have expressed anger at the fund's expenditures. The fund said that it has spent $82 million in educational programs and initiatives across Newark; however, of that money, $48 million went to teacher contracts. These contracts awarded bonuses to high performing teachers.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Newark donation. The Nonprofit Quarterly highlighted an article by the New Yorker that investigates where the money went. It concludes that much of the money went to the union contracts as well as advisers who were friends of either then-Mayor Cory Booker or Governor Chris Christie. Booker and Christie favored a charter school expansion that would still leave the most poor and at-risk students in the lurch.

Like Zuckerberg writers, time will tell what whether the Newark donation was a success; however, perhaps this new donation ought to take different steps to avoid the criticism and controversy seen on the East Coast. 

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