Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos says he’s going to put two billion dollars towards a fund that will provide housing for homeless families and preschools for children in low-income areas. Bezos announced the plan, which he’s calling the Day One Fund, in a tweet on Thursday.
The Day One Fund includes the Day One Families Fund, which will help agencies that work with homeless families, and also the Day One Academies Fund, which will launch and run a series of schools for young children.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bezos Says That At His Schools, Kids Will Be Treated Like Amazon Customers
Bezos says that the new preschools will run on the same principles he uses to run Amazon. He wrote, “Most important among those [principles] will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.” Bezos then went on to quote Irish poet William Butler Yeats, saying, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
Bezos says the schools will be run according to Montessori principles. Montessori schools are based on a child-centered, flexible curriculum which tends to de-emphasize testing and focus instead on the needs of individual children. The schools are inspired by the theories of Maria Montessori, an Italian doctor and teacher. They take an optimistic view of education, believing that children tend to want knowledge and that a teacher’s job is to give them the tools to learn best, rather than to force-feed them information.
Bezos says he plans to create a network of his preschools in “underserved” areas. He says the schools will offer full scholarships to students, although it’s not clear whether every student will get that scholarship.
2. Bezos’ Day 1 Families Fund Will Finance Companies that Do ‘Needle Moving’ Work With Homeless Families
Bezos says he wants to fund groups that work to provide shelter and food to young families in need. He plans to give an annual prize to organizations that are doing “needle moving” work with the homeless. Bezos says he is basing his mission statement off of Mary’s Place, a Seattle homeless shelter. Amazon has been partnering with Mary’s Place since 2016 to help provide emergency shelter for women and local families.
Mary’s Place provides day centers, family centers, and night shelters for people in the Seattle area. Bezos wrote that the vision for his new homeless fund “comes from the inspiring Mary’s Place in Seattle: no child sleeps outside.”
3. Bezos Says He Is Already ‘Supporting American Democracy’ By Running the Washington Post
Nobody would call Jeff Bezos a modest man, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bezos believes he is already providing a major service to the future of civilization itself. This new charity is apparently just one more step for him.
In announcing the Day 1 Fund, Bezos wrote, “In addition to Amazon, my area of focus so far have included investment in the future of our planet and civilization through the development of foundational space infrastructure, support of American democracy through stewardship of the Washington Post, and financial contributions to the dedicated and innovative champions of a variety of causes…”
What Bezos doesn’t mention, of course, is that he’s often been criticized for the way his trillion-dollar company, Amazon, treats its own employees. As many as one in ten Amazon workers in Ohio are paid such low wages that they qualify for food stamps. And Amazon employees around the country have complained about long hours, stagnating wages, and threats of layoffs.
The Washington Post (which Bezos owns) reported that Senator Bernie Sander is calling on Amazon, MacDonald’s and other mega-companies to pay the cost of food stamps used by their employees.
4. Bezos’ Net Worth Is Estimated at Over 163 Billion Dollars
Forbes Magazine says that Bezos is worth 163.1 billion dollars. The Princeton graduate founded Amazon in 1994 in Seattle; at the time, Amazon was just a bookseller. Bezos founded the company, which is now valued at one trillion dollars, in his garage.
Bezos also own Blue Origin, an aerospace company which is developing a rocket that Bezos says will carry passengers into outer space.
In 2013, Bezos bought the floundering Washington Post, paying $250 million for the newspaper.
5. Bezos is the Man Trump Loves to Hate
Jeff Bezos and Donald Trump have a bizarre history. Back in 2013, Trump was full of praise for Bezos, and said he was excited about Bezos buying the Washington Post. Trump told ABC News, “Jeff is an amazing guy” and added, “I think it’s a great move for him, I think it’s great for the Washington Post.”
But since his election, Trump has frequently used Twitter to attack both the Washington Post and Amazon. Trump frequently complains that Amazon is taking advantage of taxpayers by making the US Post Office deliver its goods to customers, even on Sundays. And Trump often lambasts what he calls “the fake news Washington Post,” which he sees as biased against him.
Trump has not responded to Bezos’ new charity.