Zuckerberg’s Startup:Education fund has announced that it will support EducationSuperHighway with a major round of funding, while the Gates Foundation has announced that it will also support the project. Several other organizations were also chipping in support. It is believed that this round of funding will raise approximately $9 million dollars. The non-profit will try to bolster internet access and IT capabilities in public schools.
Zuckerberg launches second round of funding
This is Startup:Education’s second round of funding, and first in a non-profit. The fund is set up primarily to drive innovation in the education system by focusing on startups that can have a major impact on education. Zuckerberg is also known for favoring the use of technology to address issues, so a round of funding that focuses on supporting broadband access should come as no surprise.
Zuckerberg made waves back in 2010 when he pledged $100 million dollars to Newark, New Jersey schools. While the initial step was lauded, the move has since become somewhat controversial. Cory Booker was accused of mismanaging the funds, a million dollars was blown on a mismanaged survey, and the board set up to oversee the funding spent only included one New Jersey resident, Cory Booker. Others have argued that the funding gave Governor Christie such a huge sum of money that he no longer had to listen to citizens or the community.
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Some $50 million dollars was ultimately used to create an incentive-based contract for local teachers. High-performing teachers are rewarded a bonus, up to $12,500 dollars. Since the program has just been launched, it’s hard to measure the impact but similar efforts in other school districts, such as Washington D.C., have produced positive results.
Gates foundation gets in on the action
The Gates Foundation has also announced that it will support EducationSuperHighway’s efforts. Bill Gates has taken a relatively holistic approach in his charitable donations. Gates has supported efforts to increase technology access, improve education both within the United States and developing countries, and also addressing basic needs, such as health care.
EducationSuperHighway’s efforts will focus taking an inventory of existing broadband capabilities in schools across America, providing technical consulting, and ultimately reducing costs. With spending on education constantly being cut, reducing costs may become especially important in the years to come. Since the organization is still in the “startup” phase, its first steps remain relatively unknown.
The organization is being lead by Evan Marwell, a serial entrepreneur who has gotten several businesses up and running. Mr. Marwell has worked in telecommunications, software, consumer retailing, and hedge fund management. His companies have generated billions of dollars in revenue and helped lower costs for a variety of telecommunication and other services.
Now Mr. Marwell is hoping that he can replicate his private sector success in the non profit world. Mr. Marwell has noted that 70% of schools lack access to adequate broadband, many lack the appropriate staff to support an advanced IT system, and that schools are paying far too much for broadband access. If he has his way, Mr. Marwell will be able to address these issues and more through his EducationSuperHighway efforts.