When you set out to create Facebook (then “The Facebook”) you didn’t work within the confines of what was already there. You built what should be there.
You could easily have volunteered to work with the powers at Myspace, or funnel your venture capital into their infrastructure. After all, they had already built the full site, found an audience, and created a monopoly of sorts in the market for social networking. You could have simply recognized their dominance and bowed before it, but you didn’t. You, my friend, are an inventor. You have been endowed with a natural affinity for understanding what the public needs… even when that doesn’t yet exist. This is why its so surprising to see what you’ve done with your charitable giving.
What about the current public school system made you think an injection of $100 million would be beneficial? School spending per pupil has risen dramatically over the last 25 years with almost no resulting gain in achievement. Non-teacher staff positions in public schools have grown by almost 200 percent while enrollment has pushed up no more than 9 percent. Public schools are increasingly bureaucratic, increasingly resistant to change, and decreasingly useful.
A recent Heartland Institute study examined the most important metric upon which public schools should be judged: efficiency. The results? Public schools are, by-and-large, inefficient. The national average for the ratio of teachers to non-teacher support staff is hovering dangerously close to 1:1. That means, there are as many non-teachers employed by the public school monopoly in the United States as there are teachers. Inflation-adjusted spending has been on steady incline for decades, while achievement measures have either stagnated or risen only nominally.
As evidence of public school inefficiency look at how they spent your first $1M. New Jersey has opted not to employ a new teacher, get all kids iPads, go on an amazing field trip, or any other seemingly logical step, but rather to conduct survey research on area taxpayers. What’s worse? These taxpayers are the same ones that are systematically denied a voice in their own child’s education, being denied non-means-tested vouchers and having arbitrary limitations placed on the founding of charter schools.
Am I saying your gift was one of poor judgment? No, not really. I am saying your gift was one born of ill-inform.
It is my hope that before considering your next Oprah-worthy charitable act, you harness that same innovative spirit that has helped you redefine the way humans interact at the most basic of levels and apply it to schools. Help to open public schools up to market forces, let them compete for students and dollars, and let the same forces that have made you capable of donating such hefty sums, help the next generation of American’s get the opportunity they deserve.
I’d be willing to bet your next $100 million that if you apply that money to real, workable reforms, you’d see results significantly higher than any you’ll get in the broken system.
Thanks for your time,