New year, new initiatives; funded by big name billionaires. Many college students may spend time perusing Facebook or enjoying popular hit series on Netflix such as House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, but the big dogs who founded these entertainment mediums are coming out with greater initiatives: focusing to improve education.
The phrase "the more you have, the more you want" never resonated well with 31-year-old billionaire and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Netflix Cofounder and CEO Reed Hastings isn't a big fan of school boards. What do these big shot billionaires share in common? A strategic plan to invest big money in the nation's future education.
Most people are more familiar with the name Netflix than they are that of the man behind it, Reed Hastings - but that could be about to change. Hastings recently took to Facebook to announce a $100,000,000 philanthropic endeavor: the Hastings Fund. The fund will focus on children's education, as reported by Senior Writer Ben Fox Rubin from CNET News. Hastings has served as President of the Technology Network, served on the California Board of Education for four years, donated $1 million to Proposition 39, and much more. In addition, he has also been part of other academies and programs dedicated to developing teaching videos, with a primary concern of growing high-quality charter schools and developing technology that could transform education. He admits he was never "good at following orders," and volunteered for the Peace Corps. in Swaziland, foregoing the opportunity to "buy yachts" in favor of improving K-12 education and trying to "figure out why our education is lagging when technology is increasing at great rates..." Offering a long-term solution would come from expanding charter schools was his intention while attending Stanford. Netflix got in the way, and Hastings never graduated from Stanford, but his education initiatives and dreams lived on. CNET News reports The Hasting Funds' first two gifts will be given to the United Negro College Fund and to the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, a "total of $1.5 million to support the education of black and Latino college education." Forbes estimates Hasting's net worth surpasses $1 billion, including $900 million in Netflix stock and options.
Inspired by the birth of their daughter, Max, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced a new initiative to dole out 99% of their Facebook shares - valued at $45 billion - throughout their lifetime to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The world's largest social media CEO intends to "improve this world for the next generation," according to Zuckerberg. Furthermore, he claims the mission to change the world is a "basic moral responsibility to tilt our investments." Primary areas of focus will be on personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities, according to the couple's open letter to their newborn daughter, Maxima.
The organization would be a limited liability company (LLC) as opposed to a traditional philanthropic organization. Though inspired by the $41 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it differs in that the Gates Foundation is structured as a tax-exempt, non-profit foundation and charitable trust, and is a 501 (3)(c). The Gates Foundation is not only well-known for its profits but for its efforts battling global poverty, the spread of deadly curable diseases, and improving education overall. Though Zuckerberg has a different philanthropic approach from the Gates Foundation, Gates commented that, "As for your decision to give back so generously, and to deepen your commitment now, the first word that comes to mind is: Wow. The example you're setting today is an inspiration to us and the world."
There has been skepticism and criticism in Zuckerberg's choice of structure, as it could potentially maneuver around legal structures and tax strategies. In response to criticism, he claims "The beauty of having an LLC in today's world is No.1, you have the ability to act and react as nimbly as need be to create change." Zuckerberg, for example, would be able to make political donations and is not required to give 5 percent of its value annually. Regardless of how the funds are allocated, the couple's focus is to gradually seek long-term solutions as opposed to pouring all money into one issue, as evidenced by Zuckerberg in his letter to his daughter;" We must make long-term investments over 25, 50, or even 100 years...the greatest challenges require very long time horizons and cannot be solved by short-term thinking."
Do you support or oppose this initiative by top CEO's when it comes to education? Leave us your thoughtful comments below.