Netflix CEO Hastings creates $100 million charitable fund

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has set up a $100 million charitable fund targeted at investing in education.

Hastings announced the fund in a Facebook post on Tuesday. Dubbed the Hastings Fund, the charitable foundation has already given out $1.5 million in gifts to the United Negro College Fund and the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley.

The two gifts were made “to support college education of Black and Latino youth,” Hastings said in his post.

“I’m so blessed to be able to do this, and I hope to do more in the future,” he wrote.

Neerav Kingsland, previously the CEO of New Schools for New Orleans, will serve as CEO of the Hastings fund.

Hastings is only the latest tech figure to turn his or her attention to education. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously donated $100 million to Newark, New Jersey’s public schools and has pledged another $120 million to Bay Area schools in low-income areas. Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, announced last year a $50 million project to solicit ideas for and develop new kinds of schools. Oracle announced in the fall that it would build a public charter high school on its campus in Redwood City.

While welcomed in some quarters, these investments and reform efforts have also drawn controversy. Zuckerberg’s investment in Newark, for example, was criticized for ignoring the input of parents and teachers and spending excessive amounts on high-priced consultants. Other efforts have been blasted as being vehicles for ideologically driven agendas that are more interested in undermining teachers unions and promoting the sale of technology products that have questionable benefits than in improving education.

Hastings’ pick of Kingsland to head his foundation may leave it open to similar scrutiny. New Schools for New Orleans led the effort in that city after Hurricane Katrina to reform its public schools, in part by funding the creation of dozens of new charter schools. While test scores have gone up, critics have charged that the schools have undermined communities, left out special needs kids and overstated graduation rates.

The donations of Hastings foundation to the two groups representing minority youth comes as the tech industry has been in the spotlight for its lack of diversity. At Netflix, African-Americans and Latinos make up just 6 percent of the company’s “leadership,” and there are no African-Americans among the company’s top executives or board members. Among the company’s tech employees, just 3 percent are African-American or Latino.

File photo: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings (Patrick Tehan/Staff)


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