Billionaires Early Childhood Education Philanthropy

Jeff Bezos Pledges $2 Billion for Homeless, Preschools

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Jeff Bezos, who may now be the richest man in the world, has pledged to spend $2 billion to aid the homeless and to establish preschools for low-income children.

“Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced Thursday that he will give $2 billion to help homeless families and create a new network of nonprofit preschools in low-income communities.

“The pledge, announced in a tweet, fulfills the promise he made last year when he tweeted that he planned to give money to charities that help people facing the most desperate, immediate need. Bezos asked for feedback from nonprofit leaders working on the front lines to help the planet’s neediest people….

“The $2 billion gift establishes the Bezos Day One Fund, which will support two missions. The Day One Families Fund will steer money to existing charities that help the homeless. The Day One Academies Fund will create the preschools.

“When he first asked for suggestions on how to jump-start his philanthropy, Bezos got an earful. The feedback was swift and high-volume with nonprofits bombarding Bezos with requests. He responded to at least one request for a gift early this year with a $33 million donation to TheDream.US, a charity that provides college scholarships to undocumented students, but no other large donations were publicly announced.

“Bezos also entered the political arena. Earlier this month, he and his wife, MacKenzie, gave $10 million to With Honor, a veterans-focused political-action committee.

“Until now, Bezos and his family have given a total of about $160 million to nonprofits over the past decade, according to the Chronicle’s analysis of the gifts he has announced publicly. Critics have complained that wasn’t a lot for a guy whose net worth Forbes recently pegged at nearly $163 billion.“

I know that many of us are skeptical, if not downright hostile, to billionaire gifts, which typically seem to be about telling people what to do, and privatizing the public sector, leaving people dependent on them.

I say, let’s wait and see how the Bezos philanthropy plays out. What will he do to help the homeless? A handout or a fresh start? What kind of preschools will he create? Developmentally appropriate models that allow children to play and learn at their own pace or test-prep centers?

Let’s watch and see.

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