3 Celebrities Who Really Care About Education

Many public figures and celebrities are well-known and celebrated within their domain, and that is to be expected. But some of them also really have other interests, and a few of them are really invested in the success of the U.S. public education system. This article looks at just three of those celebrities and their contributions.

  1. Mark Zuckerberg: donated over $200 million to public education.

Facebook founder and young billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has donated $120 million to public schools in San Francisco. In an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News, Zuckerberg explains that he could not sit idly by in the “world’s most innovative community” while public schools, particularly in disadvantaged areas, struggled.

This is not the first time that Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have donated money to public education. In 2010, the couple donated $100 million to schools in Newark, N.J. As part of that deal, then-mayor Cory Booker had to front an additional $100 million in matching funds, sought out through other private donations. You would think with $200 million in additional funding, the Newark schools would have something to show for it (a lot of something) but in reality, the experiment ended up less-than-stellar. A New Yorker report stated that more than $20 million went to consultants, and now mayor Ras Baraka is trying to undo much of the reform that Booker began through Zuckerberg’s contributions.

Zuckerberg seems unfazed though, saying in his most recent op-ed that the work started in Newark has yet to be realized and that the area has the leading teacher contract in the country. He admitted, though, that he learned some lessons in the process that he will bring with him in the Bay Area donation process.

  1. Taylor Swift: was recognized as “most charitable” for her contribution to NYC schools

Taylor Swift earned the top spot on DoSomething.org’s Gone Good list for 2014. The list puts public figures in the spotlight for using their fame to support philanthropic efforts.

Swift surprised everybody during an October appearance on ‘The View’ when she announced that all proceeds from her single, “Welcome to New York” – a track off her new album that escalated to No.1 on iTunes- would be donated to New York City’s public education system.

She would later go on to donate $50,000 of profits from her hit song “Welcome to New York” to the public schools of the city, according to MSNBC.

Her contribution was not without controversy, though. On Twitter, a New York Daily News critic posted, “Taylor Swift giving $50,000 to NYC schools is like me throwing a quarter at a homeless guy.”

Another joined in, “Almost enough to pay a teacher!”

Some are questioning Swift’s donation and comparing her donations to others’, like Mark Zuckerberg’s. However, The singer-songwriter’s publicist confirmed to the New York Times that this donation is the first and that she intends to donate further proceeds of the track to NYC schools.

She has also donated $4 million in 2013 to Nashville’s Hall of Fame to endow the Taylor Swift Education Center. The center – which includes three classrooms, an instrument rooms and a children’s exist gallery – marks the largest individual artist gift donated to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Her education center is a place where visitors of all ages can experience the culture of country music.

  1. Bill Gates: wants to enact higher standards in education.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has poured $28.3 billion into education initiatives since its inception in 1997.

Many of his donations are accompanied with standards for teachers. For example, for a $40 million grant he made to Pittsburgh Public Schools, the Pennsylvania Department of Education approved an evaluation system and performance ranges for teachers.

The superintendent called the agreement on an evaluation system a victory for the students and that education should improve under the evaluation system and performance ranges.

Bill Gates’ efforts are proving worth it based on other places he has made donations, so finalizing the details of the evaluation system is indeed a victory.

Gates is also a supporter of Common Core and has personally fronted 75 million in pro-lobbying dollars.

In a defense of the Common Core standards, he criticized the same people who normally support competition and innovation for taking a negative stance regarding the Common Core requirements.

When asked by the AFI’s Michael McShane why Gates was in favor of the standards, he responded that he felt they were necessary to break up the “monopoly” states have over education standards. Gates appeared visibly agitated as he pointed out the reasons Common Core is good for students, teachers and the future economy as a whole. Common Core critics point out that a state monopoly on education is certainly better than a federal one.

From long-time donors like Bill Gates to young stars like Taylor Swift, it looks like many well-known public figures are prioritizing public education. This is an encouraging trend and these charitable efforts should be recognized for the acts of generosity they are.


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