Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Dr. Priscilla Chan announced Friday a $120 million donation to local high-need schools, primarily in the Ravenswood City School District, which serves East Palo Alto and Belle Haven, and the Redwood City School District.
"The Bay Area is one of the most prosperous places in the world, but there are so many schools here that don't have the resources they need," Zuckerberg, a Palo Alto resident, wrote in an announcement about the multi-million-dollar pledge posted on his Facebook page. "Students from low-income and minority backgrounds are the hardest hit, which means fewer end up graduating or attending college. Improving public education in our country and our community is something Priscilla and I really care about, and we want to change this."
A May 29 San Jose Mercury News opinion piece co-authored by Zuckerberg and Chan on the donation cites the lower numbers of Ravenswood district students who last year were proficient on state tests in English language arts (less than 40 percent) and in math (less than 50 percent).
"We live in Palo Alto, which has, fortunately, one of the greatest school districts in the country," Chan said in her first-ever TV interview with TODAY. "But right next door, actually within walking distance of our home, is East Palo Alto that has a K-8 system that has a lot of unmet needs that the public school district is struggling to make up the difference for at this time."
They hope to combat that with their investment, the first $5 million of which will be used to provide local schools with more computers as well as teacher training, parent outreach, leadership training for principals and leadership opportunities for students, they wrote in the Mercury News.
The donation is being provided through their Startup:Education fund, a subsidiary of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and will be distributed to additional high-need schools in the Bay Area over the next five years.
The couple has a history of supporting education initiatives they donated $100 million to a Newark, New Jersey, education foundation in 2010 and have been working to improve the school system there as well as local philanthropy. Earlier this year, they gave $5 million toward construction of the new Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto.
Zuckerberg also taught an after-school program on entrepreneurship at a public middle school in Belle Haven last year. Chan, a pediatric resident at the University of California at San Francisco, is a former teacher.