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Zuckerberg, Chan give US$120 mil. to Calif. schools

MENLO PARK, California -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are donating US$120 million to the San Francisco Bay Area's public school system.

The couple's gift will be spread over the next five years and is the biggest allocation to date of the US$1.1 billion in Facebook stock the couple pledged last year to the nonprofit Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

“Education is incredibly expensive and this is a drop in the bucket. What we are trying to do is catalyze change by exploring and promoting the development of new interventions and new models,” Chan said in an interview Thursday at Facebook's Menlo Park, California, headquarters.

The first US$5 million will go to school districts in San Francisco, Ravenswood and Redwood City and will focus on principal training, classroom technology and helping students transition from the 8th to the 9th grade. The couple and their foundation, called Startup: Education, determined the issues of most urgent need based on discussions with school administrators and local leaders.

Zuckerberg and Chan, a pediatrician, discussed the donation in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press. It was Chan's first significant step into the public spotlight and the couple's premier interview together.

Chan, 29, and Zuckerberg, 30, have made philanthropy a central theme of their life together. The two made the largest charitable gift on record for 2013. That US$1.1 billion donation was on top of another US$500 million the couple gave a year earlier to the Silicon Valley foundation, which helps donors allocate their gifts.

“I just think that philanthropy is a fancy way to say that you care about others and that you want to serve others. And that's been a part of me for as long as I can remember,” said Chan, fresh from a pediatrics residency shift at the University of California, San Francisco medical center, where she works primarily with underserved, immigrant families.

New Jersey Questions

Though it's been long in the works, the latest gift comes at a time when critics are still questioning what became of Zuckerberg's US$100 million donation to Newark, New Jersey's public school system. Four years ago, he announced the donation. While well-intentioned, the money has so far failed to fix the city's ailing school system. The process lacked meaningful community input and much of the money has been spent on high-paid contractors and consultants. Four years later, the money is nearly gone and a lot of people are angry.

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