Billionaire Funding, Bezos-style

Another tech billionaire wants to save education. This time it’s the world richest man.

Bezos’s donation seems to be rooted in good intentions, and it comes at a time when early-childhood education is dominating talks of how to revamp nationwide learning efforts. The First Five Years Fund, which aims to get more federal support for early education, says preschool enrollment has continued to increase, but that there still isn’t enough money to match this uptick and create high-quality programs. Bezos’s pledge could be one of the biggest ever to be given to preschools, the Los Angeles Times reported.

They all seem to be rooted in good intentions. But ultimately, the impact is usually that no one believes education professionals are capable of saving themselves.

This isn’t the first of Bezos’s charitable donations, but he is a little late to the game in getting up to par with fellow billionaires’ pledges. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have said they’ll donate 99% of their Facebook shares to “advancing human potential and promoting equality,” and this year, his charity pledged $30 million to help students learn to read. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated billions of dollars to charity, and in August, the organization unveiled $90 million in grants for its student achievement initiative.

If you will indulge me for a bit, I think these giant grants do more for the people giving them than the communities receiving them. The money helps, of course, but it doesn’t actually change the systematic issues that need to be addressed. And it gets them good press so people pay less attention to how they are actually making their money.

“We’re hoping that local, state and federal governments see this as a call to invest more in preschool and child care,” he told the Post. “Frankly, philanthropy can’t fund all of society’s challenges.”

How much do you want to bet that government doesn’t actually listen?