I have nothing but admiration for the incredible success Mark Zuckerberg has accomplished at such a young age in his entrepreneurial endeavors. But his philanthropic efforts have left a lot to be desired.
As I wrote last year, Zuckerberg's decision to double down on his poor decision to donate $100 million to the failing Newark public school system with another $120 million gift to the Bay Area's failing schools was simply throwing good money after bad. It was particularly disappointing to see a Silicon Valley billionaire who pioneered a "disruptor" culture in tech and social media financially enabling a very old and failed model of public schooling that has trapped too many children in our cities for decades.
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Zuckerberg hasn't disavowed the big public school model in the past year or rescinded his donations. But this week he did something better by acting as the key player in a $100 million round of funding for AltSchools, a organization that is setting up a series of private "micro schools" that focus on one-on-one education for children in K-8. What's interesting about AltSchools is that no one really doubts it has a great educational model, the only question is whether it will be able to financially survive while still providing slots to kids from all economic backgrounds. As of now, the schools carry a hefty tuition of $20,000 per year but about 15% of the students get finanical aid. Of course, more private funding will make a lot more financial aid a possibility.
But the great news is that this move by Zuckerberg proves he might actually care about changing and improving educational opportunities in America. The big donations to Newark and the Bay Area public schools reeked of political correctness and p.r. preening. This is Zuckerberg giving the education sector his best gift; his entrepreneurial acumen and ambition.
Let's hope Zuckerberg keeps this up and encourages more of his tech millionaire and billionaire peers to do the same.