Tangled Web: Zuckerberg & Chan's Education Grants, Investments
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, are using a diverse mix of entities to support education technology and personalized learning.
The giant social media corporation has detailed 20 employees to California charter network Summit Public Schools. Together, the engineers and educators are developing a digital learning platform for schools. Observers say Facebook isn’t making a major play in K-12, just contributing talent to Zuckerberg’s chief philanthropic cause.
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC
Announced upon the birth of their daughter in December, this limited liability corporation is expected to serve as the umbrella organization for the couple’s giving. Zuckerberg and Chan have committed 99 percent of their Facebook stock, valued at about $45 billion, to the initiative, which will be free to make charitable donations, for-profit investments, and political contributions. In addition to personalized learning, Zuckerberg and Chan have said they will give to health-related causes and to support strong communities. CZI has not yet made any education-related donations or investments.
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
The largest community foundation in the country works with individual, organizational, and corporate philanthropists to help manage their giving. Over the course of 2012 and 2013, Zuckerberg and Chan placed 36 million shares of Facebook stock (valued at the time at an estimated $1.5 billion) in a “donor advised” fund at the foundation, with Startup:Education as an officially designated “supporting organization.” Money from this fund has also been used to support the couple’s other philanthropic interests, including $75 million for San Francisco General Hospital, $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control, and an undisclosed amount to fund the creation of The Primary School, a free private preK-8 school set to open in Fall 2016.
Zuckerberg Education Ventures
The for-profit investment arm of the Facebook founder’s giving empire, this LLC has invested millions to a handful of ed-tech companies. Officials say any returns will go toward the umbrella organization’s larger mission. Zuckerberg Education Ventures is not required by law to publicly disclose who gets its money. Officials said that most, but not all, of its investments to date have been reported, and the organization’s intent is to publicly disclose its activities whenever possible. The investments that are known:
- Ellevation, a software program for educators of English-language learners: Part of a $6.4 million round.
- Mastery Connect, a competency-based learning platform: $5 million.
- Newsela, an app that provides current-events reading materials differentiated by reading level: Part of a $15 million round.
- AltSchool, a network of private microschools developing new software tools: $15 million.
- Bridge International Academies, a network of technology-enabled schools in developing countries: $10 million.
Founded in 2010 to help direct Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the Newark, N.J., schools, Startup:Education is now funded primarily through Zuckerberg and Chan’s donor-advised fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The nonprofit now guides all of the couple’s education-related charitable giving, including $21 million in grants in 2014. Among Startup:Education’s philanthropic priorities:
- Bay Area schools: From a $120 million commitment announced in 2014, districts such as San Francisco Unified, Ravenswood, and Redwood City have received amounts of up to $1 million each for classroom technology, teacher professional development, and student leadership programs.
- Charter school growth: Aspire, Caliber, and Summit Public Schools are among the charter networks receiving between $160,000 and $3.5 million each. The NewSchools Venture Fund has also received almost $2 million.
- Personalized learning: A project called Education-Reimagined received $750,000 to bring together teachers’ union leaders, principals, tech executives, and others to develop a common vision around personalized learning.
- Leadership development: Braven, the New Teacher Center, and Teach For America are among the groups that have received donations.
- School connectivity: School-broadband advocacy group EducationSuperHighway has received $23 million.
This story has been clarified to indicate that Zuckerberg Education Ventures has invested millions in ed-tech companies.