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Facebook's Zuckerberg pledges $120 million to Bay Area schools

(Reuters) - Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have pledged $120 million to Bay Area schools to help underserved communities in San Francisco, the two wrote in an essay to the San Jose Mercury News.

The announcement, made in the Bay Area paper on Thursday night, marks Zuckerberg's latest charitable donation to lagging public education systems. In 2010, the tech tycoon donated $100 million to beleaguered public schools in Newark, New Jersey.

"The investments we've made are a drop in the bucket compared to the challenges schools face. But we've seen that targeted investments can be catalysts for much bigger changes in communities, and give vital support to leaders and organizations," the couple said.

"Helping improve the quality of public education in this country is something we both really care about."

The essay cited the Ravenswood school district in particular, which is slated to receive grant money when the first $5 million is released, where last year fewer than half of the students were rate as proficient in math and fewer than 40 percent were proficient in English.

The two noted that low-income and minority students in the region struggle to perform well in the classroom, due in part to a lack of school resources.

The money will be routed through the Startup:Education fund with the aim of providing computers and internet connectivity to needy schools, offering teacher training, and helping to fund new district and charter schools among other initiatives.

Critics however have questioned the effectiveness of Zuckerberg's past philanthropic endeavors. A recent article in The New Yorker outlined problems that continue to plague the Newark school system despite the $100 million donation.

"Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read,” Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, told The New Yorker.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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