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Facebook’s Future

October 7th, 2010

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million donation to the failing Newark, N.J. schools during an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Sept. 24. 

Zuckerberg will launch Startup: Education Foundation with $100 million in his own Facebook stock, which will be sold on the secondary market at the discretion of the Foundation. 

Facebook is a private company; revenues are not reported, and most of the estimated value of the company and its CEO is not liquid, or convertible to cash. 

The company announced a five-for-one stock split last week. Bringing the estimated value of a share of stock to approximately $15, according to a NyPost.com article about the split. Its actual value will not be known until the company goes public with an initial public offering.

Zuckerberg allegedly met Newark Mayor Cory Booker at a conference in July, where the two began talks about their collaboration. 

In a Facebook note published the same day as his appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Zuckerberg suggested that efforts for school reform should model the qualities that create successful startup companies: great leaders and a market for competition. 

He wrote, “School districts need more autonomy and clearer leadership so they can be managed more like startups than like government bureaucracies.”

In most references, Zuckerberg seems to be referring to charter schools, which receive public funding but operate as independent entities – that is, free from the governance of school districts and teachers’ unions. 

“Newark has unfortunately become a symbol of public education’s failure—of a status quo that accepts schools that don’t succeed,” wrote Zuckerberg. “In 2009, only 40 percent of kids could read and write at grade level by the end of third grade, only 54 percent of high school students graduated and just 38 percent enrolled in college.”

The donation came just more than a week before the release of the film “The Social Network,” which portrays Zuckerberg as a spiteful loner with twisted ethics. 

Some critics view the announcement as a public relations stunt to frame Zuckerberg as a philanthropist to combat the portrayal of him in the film. 

Some praised the initiative,  including Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corporation and co-founder of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

In a video posted on Startup: Education’s Facebook page, Gates said, “Thank you, Mark, for this incredible gift to improve education. Your involvement in the years ahead – your thinking, your energy – will be even more important than your resources.”

Zuckerberg called on the public to match his donation at startupeducation.org.