8 Rich People Who Gave Big Public School Donations

Stephen Colbert’s $800,000 donation to public school teachers has plenty of company. Large public school donations have come from Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, the Walton family, Stephen King and others. See our list of eight big public school donations below.

1. Stephen Colbert Made an $800,000 Public School Donation to South Carolina Teachers

Comedian Stephen Colbert surprised teachers with an $800,000 gift to fund nearly 1,000 different projects in more than 375 South Carolina schools. The school donation will fund every suggested program on DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding website that lets donors give money to fund specific ideas from teachers.

stephen colbert donation donors choose school teachers


DonorsChoose.org lets teachers list ideas for things they’d like to see funded. Categories on the site include funding requests for science, math, art, books, field trips and other items. Specific funding opportunities range from iPads and chromebooks to lego robots to basic supplies like pencils and notebooks.

Colbert is on the board of directors for DonorsChoose.org. He auctioned off props from his show The Colbert Report to raise the money for the donations.

Colbert told the news to Alexander Elementary School in Greenville, SC by video conference. Nearly all the students at the school qualify for free or reduced price lunches. Colbert’s donations will provide books, carpeting, bulletin boards and basic school supplies for the school.

Read: 5 Super Rich People Who Aren’t Jerks

2. Mark Zuckerberg Made a $220 Million Public School Donation

In September of 2010, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to the Newark public school system. In May of 2014, Zuckerberg made another gift of $120 million to public schools in San Francisco.

Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark’s public schools has been criticized by observers on both sides of the political aisle. Critics claim the money was wasted. At least $50 million was put into a program to reward teachers judged as “highly effective.” The area’s best teachers were each given bonuses of $12,500. It’s hard to say whether the money was actually wasted. It’s certainly not hard to see how $12,500 in extra pay would entice good teachers to stick around and encourage other teachers to try harder.

Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan announced the donation in an open letter.

“Today Priscilla and I are announcing a $120 million commitment to support efforts to improve education for underserved communities in the Bay Area.” said Zuckerberg.”

Zuckerberg says his donations are a drop in the bucket compared to what schools and teachers actually need. However, he points out that specific donations can and do help. He points out that Newark’s school system now has the top teacher contract in the country.

The $120 million San Francisco donation will go towards computers, connectivity, teacher training and parent outreach.

Read: 8 of the World’s Richest People Dropped Out of School

3. Barbara Dodd Anderson Gave $128 Million to Her Former High School

school donations george school

The George School.

In one of the largest school donations ever made to a high school, an alumna donated $128 million to the George School, a Quaker prep school in Bucks County, PA.

Anderson inherited her fortune from her father, Professor David L. Dodd, who formerly taught business classes at Columbia University.

school donations george school 2

Students in The George School.

One of Dodd’s students happened to be a young man named Warren Buffett. Rejected from Harvard, Buffett wrote to Dodd and asked to be admitted to Columbia. Dodd agreed to help the young Buffett. He was so impressed with the student’s college performance that when Buffett graduated and opened an investment partnership, the professor became one of the firm’s first clients. Buffett became the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the world’s richest people. Along the way, Buffett made Dodd and several other early investors very rich.

Dodd’s daughter, Barbara Dodd Anderson, was once a kindergarten teacher. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and wanting to see her money do some good, she decided to donate most of it to her former high school. Anderson said Buffett’s own donation of $37 Billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation inspired her to give her money away.

Read: Bill Gates vs You: Net Worth Showdown

4. Bill and Melinda Gates’ School Donations Are Well Into the Billions

bill gates billionaire dropoutThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given away billions to public schools both around the world and in the United States.

The size of the Gates Foundation endowment is currently $43 billion, and education is one of the top three causes the money is being donated to.

Some of the Gates Foundation’s public school donations  to date have included:

  • A public school donation to Hillsborough County Public Schools: $100 million
  • A public school donation to Memphis City Schools: $90 million
  • A school donation for The College-Ready Promise, Los Angeles: $60 million
  • A public school donation to Pittsburgh Public Schools: $40 million

Not everyone is happy with Bill and Melinda Gates for their donations to public schools. The Common Core initiative, a school program largely unpopular with teachers, parents and students alike, was put together from research paid for by the Gates Foundation. In the video below, Gates answers critics of Common Core.

Read: Can a Normal Guy Join the 1%?

5. The Walton Family Has Donated Over $1 Billion to Public Schools

christy walton billionaire no educationThe Walton family, heirs to Sam Walton’s Walmart fortune, contains some of the richest people in the world. Heavily criticized for donating only a small amount of their net worth compared to other billionaires, the family has nonetheless donated over a billion dollars to K-12 education since 1995.

Donations by the Waltons have created one in every four charter schools in the United States.

Critics of the Waltons’ efforts complain that the new charter schools aren’t subject to public oversight or voter control. Some go so far as to say that the Waltons are white, rich and powerful and seek to control education in poor areas populated largely by people of color.

6. Taylor Swift Made a $50,000 Donation to NYC Schools

Pop Diva Taylor Swift made a $50,000 school donation to New York City’s public schools. The funds came from the proceeds from her hit song, “Welcome to New York.”

Swift has pledged to continue to donate all incoming proceeds from the song to New York’s public school system.

Read: Did Rihanna Really Get $125K to Mention Ray-Ban?

7. Drake Donated a Recording Studio to a Public School

Rapper Drake pledged to build a recording studio for an inner city high school in Philadelphia. Drake was moved to donate the recording studio after seeing a story by reporter Diane Sawyer on the school.

The Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia had more than 10 violent incidents for every 100 students in a five year period. 96% of the school’s students live in poverty.

Drake has sold over 5 million albums with twelve #1 singles. The news story that led him to decide to donate the recording studio is below.

8. Stephen King Has Given Millions in Public School Donations

school donations stephen kingA school librarian in Durham, Maine once wrote horror novelist Stephen King a letter asking for a small donation. She told the writer she needed a little money to help buy some books for the children in her school. King responded with a check for $10,000.

The donation was not a one time event. The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation regularly awards grants between $500 and $50,000. One of the foundation’s biggest donation targets is education.

Read: Mexico Pays Millions to Change New Bond Movie “Spectre”

Public Schools, Private Donations

Public school donations from private sources are by no means limited to our eight examples above. In the State of California, in 2007 alone, private sources donated in excess of $1.3 billion to public schools.

Critics say private donations to public schools are unethical, because the gifts of money allow those with money to influence school policy. Right or wrong, school donations are happening. Americans gave $335 billion to charity in 2013. 16% of that or $53 billion went to education.


Stephen Colbert Announces Major Gift To South Carolina Teachers – Huffington Post

Whatever Happened to the $100 Million Mark Zuckerberg Gave to Newark Schools? – Mother Jones

Alumna Gives $128 Million to High School – New York Times

Foundation Fact Sheet – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

K-12 Education – The Walton Family Foundation

Education – Walmart1Percent.org

Our Mission – Stephen & Tabitha King Foundation

Public School, Private Donations: The Money Debate – Huffington Post

Charitable Giving Statistics – National Philanthropic Trust