A $120 million charitable donation by Facebook President and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Pricilla Chan, M.D., to provide fresh funding to aid the San Francisco Bay area’s public schools is worth lauding but let’s hope that the generosity will produce the desired results of improving education.
The generous contribution comes with high risk-reward implications. A successful use of the funds may encourage huge charitable contributions for education from other extremely wealthy people who otherwise could support medical advances, jump-start local economies in downtrodden cities or create job opportunities with new investment, while a squandering of the money could discourage such benevolence.
Debate exists about whether contributions to a particular cause are a better use of money than re-deploying it the private sector to create good-paying jobs at businesses that provide products or services people really need and want to buy. I followed the commercial satellite industry for many years as a reporter when billions of dollars were going into the development of mobile voice services that were expected to charge up to $7 a minute to provide service virtually anywhere on the globe.
Ultimately, the market place showed that relatively few people were unwilling to spend such significant sums on placing a phone call and the businesses went bankrupt. The same principle of seeking a return on investment that determines whether start-up businesses gain additional funding or find their sources of capital dry up amid dimming prospects comes into play with large donations.
Fortunately for San Francisco-area public school children, Zuckerberg and his wife are willing to provide their big donation after already pumping $100 million into the public schools in Newark, N.J., with questionable results.
NBC News, which the conservative Media Research Center routinely cites as a bastion of liberal-leaning journalism, acknowledged in a May 30 “Today Show” news report that the $100 million in Zuckerberg funding is largely is gone, with little to show for it. MSN reported on May 13 on the situation and gave the article a headline, “Was Zuckerberg’s $100M school gift a waste?”
However, the most scathing and detailed reporting of the $100 million arguably misspent came from New Yorker magazine article, “Schooled.”