Local treasure Chalkbeat, an education philanthropy-funded education news site, published a gangbusters report on about one third of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s education philanthropy spending.

Some helpful timing! Journo Anand Giridharadas just published a book on how elites have always used philanthropy to reinforce their elite positions. A book funded in part by enough philanthropy dollars to help Giridharasdas make a very lumpy bed to lay in.

But will the press around this book make the Internet elites rethink the Benjamins with which they paper ever more charter school buildings? And how do these CZI grants stack up to Giridharadas’s argument that the private jet class use their largess to reduce instead of perpetuate inequality?

CZI throws a few bills on the floor to support educators of color, a few public schools, and education research. Cool. But they spend much more on “individualized” learning systems (ahem, that’s tablets) and charter schools.

Funding charter schools is how richies look like they care about education without actually mitigating any of the problems impacting public schools: de facto segregation, poverty, traumatized students, terrible public funding knocking the teaching profession down to the the level of feminized caretaking work undergone by noble hearts doing it for love instead of mortgage money. Because they can’t get mortgages.

Also, “individualized learning systems” are called classrooms. Trained teachers know how to support each student where they are. Public school teachers call this process “differentiation.” If they’re in wealthy districts they can use cool online tools to help them differentiate, sure, ok. But the tools are only as helpful as the (respected, equitably paid) teachers that use them. Robust public funding of public education and social capital afforded to educators would help them more than piling onto them so many frickin online tools.


CZI has also defined personalized learning as including “social-emotional and interpersonal skills, mental and physical health, and a child’s confident progress toward a sense of purpose,” as Shelton put it in 2017.

CZI is spending $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ to help kids use apps to build social-emotional skills in school. That, sheeple, is called Fucking Irony.

I’m wondering if Silicon Valley’s hackitude distrupticon has mummified Zuck’s mind so completely that he can’t see that he’s simply adding computers to what teachers have already been doing in well-supported classrooms.


CZI gets to shield rampant self-promotion under a 503(c) and get more and more high-needs kids more and more embedded in Zuck’s products. And that’s just the donations that we know about. There’s still a secret $200 million lurking, already realizing Zuck’s personal vision of how your children should be educated.

Under the federal tax code, an organization that feeds the hungry can count as a philanthropy, and so can a university where students study the problem of hunger, and so, too, can a think tank devoted to downplaying hunger as a problem. All these qualify as what are known, after the relevant tax-code provision, as 501(c)(3)s, meaning that the contributions they receive are tax deductible, and that the earnings on their endowments are largely tax-free. 

CZI is structured such that they can give away billions in complete transparency. Seems like 503(c) rules are ready for some revisiting by people who believe that government oversight is necessary to protect ordinary people from the predations of the new Carnegies.

Hahahahahhahahahahahah when you’re done laughing, please visit Vu Le’s website, Nonprofit AF, to learn more about how to use your philanthropy budgets to support 503(c)s that work toward equity, social justice, elevating leaders from marginalized communities, and unicorns.

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