Mark Zuckerberg makes $100 million donation to Newark public schools

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and one of Facebook’s founders, is donating $100 million to the Newark public school system. He has agreed to the donation to help improve the long-troubled public schools in Newark, and Governor Chris Christie will cede some control of the state-run system to Mayor Cory A. Booker in conjunction with the huge gift, reported by The New York Times’s Richard Perez-Pena. Zuckerberg will announce the contribution tomorrow on, you guessed it, The Oprah Winfrey Show, where he will be joined by both men – Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The New York Times broke news of Zuckerberg’s educational fund the same day that Forbes revealed its Richest People in America of 2010, to which Zuckerberg had climbed to #35.  Forbes estimates Zuckerberg is now worth $6.9 billion, most notably ahead of Steve Jobs, who is estimated to be worth $6.1 billion notching him #42 on Forbes’ list.  There is one small caveat.

The timing of this announcement is undoubtedly synced to the October 1 release of The Social Network, based on Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires, which both portray Zuckerberg in less than ideal light. It is conceivable that the donation could also be to get ahead of his new rank on the Forbes 400.  The ‘kid’ is now more wealthy, according to Forbes estimation, than Steve Jobs remember.

But let’s take this for what it is worth.  $100 million to one of the worst school systems, well that carries some significant weight. And the ‘kid’ is doing it out of his own personal wealth.  In conjunction with this donation is the announcement that Zuckerberg is reportedly creating a foundation with its chief goal being to enhance America’s education system.  This is the sort of philanthropy that we see from the likes of Bill Gates (Forbes estimated at $54 billion, #1) and Warren Buffet (Forbes estimated at $45 billion, #2).  Which brings up an additional point.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are on a $600 billion challenge. Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett are asking the nation’s billionaires to pledge to give at least half their net worth to charity, in their lifetimes or at death. If their campaign succeeds, it could change the face of philanthropy. The 2010 Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America saw their total worth go up 8 percent to $1.37 trillion over 2009.

So regardless of how you feel about Zuckerberg before or after the donation, before or after the movie, and before or after the next Facebook change that has you throwing tantrums, let’s take it at face value. It’s astonishing that someone has that much money to give, but what’s even more astonishing is that they are willing to give it.  It’s easy for you or I to say “hell I’d do it if I had $6.9 billion (Forbes estimated).” But unfortunately for you and I, talk is cheap.

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