Zuckerberg, Chan pledge $120 million for local schools

Palo Alto couple continues education philanthropy with five-year investment

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by katebe
a resident of Green Acres
on May 30, 2014 at 10:13 am

Thanks very much to Mr.Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Chan! Very generous and much needed donations! Setting a great example through your generosity!

Like this comment
Posted by businessdecision
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 30, 2014 at 10:27 am

[Post removed.]

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Posted by What?
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 30, 2014 at 10:32 am

How awesome an act for a couple who can help do help in such a wonderful way. This will help open up so many formerly closed doors. I arrived in the BEST country in the world when I was 4 years old and I had excellent caring teachers while attending Costano, Brentwood, Willow and Ravenswood, Many have passed on and I still think about them today. Thanks Mark and Priscilla! A brighter future is ahead for our children and for our nation.

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Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2014 at 10:34 am


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Posted by JIm Phillips
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on May 30, 2014 at 11:12 am

This is wonderful - Thanks to Mr. Zuckerberg and Dr. Chan. The need for this kind of help is so clearly evident.

Like this comment
Posted by Anna XX
a resident of Ohlone School
on May 30, 2014 at 11:16 am

The difference between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto and especially with being right next to each other is striking and not something to be proud off. I believe that it is the obligation of the very wealthy to support a positive change.
It is great to tackle this with providing better opportunities for the young via education!

Like this comment
Posted by Ellen
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 30, 2014 at 11:18 am

A public high school is desperately needed. As long as teens are bused to other communities there will be nothing but trouble awaiting them upon their return at the end of the school day.

Like this comment
Posted by Liz
a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2014 at 11:21 am

This is wonderful. Thank you both.

Is there a way to turn your attention to the 129 low-income children at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto? They go to our schools but will lose their good schools, homes and their parents will lose their jobs because it is likely they will be forced out of the region, into poor towns far away, who knows where?

Palo Alto Housing Corp could build wonderful low income housing there for them. Needed - money to HELP buy the 4 acres of land where their mobile homes are now.

How can this horrible displacement happen in such a well off town as ours? There does seem to be a reasonable chance to keep these residents here in their town. Please see for more information.

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 30, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Thank you Mark. But if I may make a couple small requests that will cost you a fraction of what you just donated:

1) Hire someone to monitor and report back on the usage of your gift. Schools these days have a way of absorbing enormous sums of money with no detectable results, as we apparently saw with your gift to Newark NJ. Your heart is in the right place, just take the extra step to make sure it is not wasted. What you learn may make your gift more meaningful and what you learn may help shape your next gift.

2) Saddle-up a few legal knights to go do battle with the teachers unions and the forces that keep our schools sub-standard. I fear the true source of the problem is outside the schools, they are well-funded and very self-serving. An effort there could make a huge difference all over the country. Politicians fear to tackle them, no one else has the funds. Can you help please?

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Money helps up to a point, but endlessly throwing money at a schools problem doesn't solve things. Oakland (public) schools are notorious for having fraud and waste, so just increasing money doesn't help that kind of situation.
Not sure about the areas targeted by Mr. Zuckerberg - do note that it is extremely easy for a multi-billionaire to donate some millions in stock towards a cause, and then get a charitable tax deduction! Perhaps if Mr. Zuckerberg would make monthly personal appearances in the districts he will focus on, he may inspire some youth and also perhaps he could audit their books to keep them on track.
Note also that he is a graduate of one of the absolute most exclusive private high schools in the United States: Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., an outstanding boarding high school with unbelievable resources, Not sure he can "relate" to economically deprived students and their on-the-ground hands-on champions.

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Posted by Myrtle Walker
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 30, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Thanks to the Zuckerbergs for addressing an issue that has plagued East Palo Alto schools for 40 years. Its a shame that our schools suffer from the lack of resources in one of the riches economies in the nation ie.Silicon Valley. Our kids fail because they are ill prepared to compete with the surrounding schools they feed into. I hope these funds will be used wisely and we can get some volunteers to come and help correct these inequities.

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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Well—that’s 120 million dollars that will be gone before you know it.

It’s Zuckerberg’s money – so he can do with it what he wants … but got to wonder if that money, properly invested in local businesses, would not have more long-term, beneficial effects of the communities where he is injecting this money?

It’s doubtful that the standardized test scores will be even noticeably better after this money hits the ground, and gets spread around to the education establishment that is more invested in the “status quo” than improving the education system. Wonder what this kind of money would have produced if given to the Kahn Academy, or other similar kinds of businesses?

The future is not paying more for what has failed in the past. But it’s Zuckerberg’s money—so he can spend it as he sees fit.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I also thank Mark Z for the gift but also query the difference it will make long term.

I spoke with a Ravenswood teacher who said that the greatest gift to her would be parent education to instill a value of education from the homes of those she teaches.

There's a commercial on tv at present that encourages parents to talk to their babies rather than stare at their phones. I would go further and say that kids who are just put in front of a tv, or given a device to play with, are still lacking on parental involvement in their lives. Parents need to understand that their kids will do better at school if they have plenty of quality time with their parents - both of them. Quality time doesn't just mean quantity, it means sitting to eat a meal together with conversation and shared responsibility in the preparation and clean up. It means looking at what interests the child - a book, a bug, a picture drawn or a craft made.

All the money donated to schools is wonderful, but the opportunity it presents can be wasted if the home doesn't nurture the child and learning.

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2014 at 12:40 pm

This is a lovely thing for them to do! God Bless them and their future endeavors.

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Posted by Katie
a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Hope the money does not end up like the donation did in New Jersey. The schools did not get much of it. It landed in the hands of the administrators.

Better have a close accounting of it.

Other than that a generous gift.

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Posted by SuperC
a resident of Community Center
on May 30, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Thank you Mr. Zuckerberg for your generous and needed contribution to these school districts. Now that these underprivileged schools are getting the resources they need, can we deep six the Tinsley Voluntary Transfer Program?

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Resident posted....
"There's a commercial on tv at present that encourages parents to talk to their babies rather than stare at their phones. I would go further and say that kids who are just put in front of a tv, or given a device to play with, are still lacking on parental involvement in their lives..."
but, from what I witness, plenty of ultra-rich parents of young babies/kids are using luxury handheld devices to "distract" their kids...I strongly disapprove of this and I believe the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees to limit such use or have none at all in early years. (Any MDs wish to weigh in...)
The talking with your kids part aside, the over use of screen time isn't a problem only of those with lower income/socioeconomics. I highly recommend reading to your young kids and giving them experience in the natural world/outdoors.

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Posted by question
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 30, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Will any of this money go towards educating parents in these low achieving districts on how to take part in their children's education and how to start putting a value on their kids education?

I taught at a school in Redwood City and we would maybe get if lucky 100 parents at back to school night and open house. I have taught in PAUSD the last 15 years and it is packed each night with thousands of very involved parents roaming the halls.

As a teacher I will tell you that number one reason kids in Palo Alto Unified achieve is because parents encourage and support getting a great education! They are responsible parents who are very involved in their kids educations.

You can blame teachers, administrators, etc... education starts at home with supportive parents. [Portion removed.]

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Posted by BuffettRule
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Thanks, but just pay your taxes ... the normal rate all the other people who work have to pay instead of all those loopholes, then we do not have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2014 at 11:27 am


I am sure Mr. Zuckerberg pays the taxes he is obligated to. If there are loopholes he uses, he did not put them there. If you found a loophole you could legally use to avoid taxes, please do not tell me you would not use it and pay the taxes anyway. Also, keep in mind that using loopholes often comes with a price. For instance, Mr. Zuckerberg may be able to deduct this $120M donation to the schools. Paying the taxes instead of making the donation might have cost him only half as much, but he would not have been able to target the funds where he desired.

I am sorry, but no matter how you slice it, Mr. Zuckerberg is out-of-pocket on this and it is a great thing to do. However, as I said above, it would be a good idea to have someone not under the pay of the schools or government monitor the use of the funds and report back. That person should be someone worthy of trust.

Mr. Zuckerberg, you can trust, but cut the deck anyway.

Like this comment
Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2014 at 11:37 am

Thank you, Zuckerberg family. With your generous donation you ensure that opportunities is here for all students. Education and jobs training are the key to empowering young people to make a difference in their own lives and our community.

Like this comment
Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 31, 2014 at 6:29 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

Thank you, neighbors, for your generous gift. It will make a big difference for our community.

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Posted by Janet Dickens
a resident of Stanford
on May 31, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Thank you so much Zuckerburgs, please allocate some of the funds to deal with mental health issues of youth regardless off social economic status SES. I am Will Dickens' mother. Gunn High student, he died in 2009 in PA at Caltrain between East Meadow and Charleston in Palo Alto. Thank you again!

Like this comment
Posted by Schmucker
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 31, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Zuck is pretty much the mouthpiece for his much more intelligent and verbal wife. Thank God he has her to be his conscience and guide.

Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 1, 2014 at 2:04 am

Throwing money to any system than has been riddled over the years with very poor and suspicious money management without following where every penny goes is ridiculous. [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Schmucker, I disagree. I do not know them, but something tells me that a) Mark's mother didn't raise no dummies, and b) Mark has a moral backbone of his own. Furthermore, as with any good marriage, the total is much greater than the sum of the parts. I am sure both of them had plenty to do with these decisions. It is not proper to even try to pin credit or blame on one or the other.

Go Team!

Like this comment
Posted by businessdecision
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 2, 2014 at 8:39 am

If I were Mark and Priscilla, I'd take my money back and find something else to give it to. Education is too problematic, raises too many issues, brings out too much racism, too much condescension.

Like this comment
Posted by Scmucker
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 2, 2014 at 8:54 am

JustMe: my husband has known Zuck for a LONG time, my eldest son's wife works directly for him. Zuck does not appear to be as sensitive as one might think....he is intelligent, but it is a very one-sided intelligence. His wife is the real strength of the two and is very well-rounded,intellectually, morally, emotionally. I regret that the same cannot be said for Zuck, according to family members in the know.

I have only met the man once, was shocked at his seeming lack,of common sense, manners, and focus. My younger son has ADHD, and Zuck is very much like him.

I think Zuck was simply in the right place at the right time, and got very lucky. [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by businessdecision
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 2, 2014 at 9:42 am

Scmucker, Mark launched a terrible thing, one of the worst privacy killers. You can't blame him though. You have to blame the people who dove right into FB, without considering the consequences. [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2014 at 12:59 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

The guy and his wife just made a VERY generous gift trying to solve a problem that has been haunting us for a LONG time. He is trying to save/improve lives of children. It is pretty danged UN-gracious to attack him, especially on a personal level, when he has done such a thing. You have a problem because he is not perfect? I've got news for you: No one is! I know I have my flaws, certainly, one of which is posting here.

How wrong-headed can you get? No, wait, don't show me.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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