Netflix CEO Reed Hastings Pledges Big Contribution to Education

Managing Editor
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings during the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. --AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is the latest mega-entrepreneur to commit to a huge effort to pour money into education, announcing this week his creation of a $100 million philanthropic fund.

Even by the standards of many corporate executives today, Hastings has a strong interest in education policy that dates back many years.

Perhaps best known as a prominent backer of charter schools, he has also served as the president of the California state board of education.

Hastings announced the creation of the philanthropy–“creatively named the Hastings Fund,” he quipped–in a Facebook post. The first two gifts from the philanthropy are to the United Negro College Fund and Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, worth a combined $1.5 million, to focus on college access.

The Netflix chief did not immediately offer details on his other ambitions with the fund. It will be run through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which describes itself as a “comprehensive center for philanthropy” that partners with donors. The CEO of the fund will be Neerav Kingsland, who has previously served as CEO of the nonprofit New Schools for New Orleans.

Hastings’ announcement comes the month after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, pledged to donate 99 percent of their company shares, potentially worth $45 billion, to public health, education, and community causes. The couple said their gifts would flow through a limited liability company, potentially giving it more freedom to support policy issues and make private investments.

In education circles, Hastings is often associated with promotion of charter schools. His support for charters has made him the target of derision among critics of the independent public schools.

On the flip side, however, Hastings’ record in California also included calls for bringing greater accountability to the charter sector. He became known in California for backing efforts to rein in financial abuses at charters.  (See Education Week’s detailed profile from several years ago of Hastings’ work in California.)

Photo: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. –Julie Jacobson/AP-File

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