Confronting Systemic Inequity in Education: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy is the title of a major new report from the National Committee On Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).
I don’t have it in me to read the report tonight, but I have a lot of respect for NCRP, so I’m assuming it’s pretty good. Regular readers are also aware of some of my skepticism about private foundations (see Private Foundations Have a Place (& Have To Be Kept In Their Place), my guest post at The Huffington Post).
Here’s its introduction:
Every year, foundations provide billions in grants for education. Yet, our education system is in crisis: American schoolchildren – especially those from vulnerable communities – remain trapped in a continuous cycle of inequities in educational access and opportunities.
How can philanthropy be more effective at deploying its limited resources to help reform and improve our nation’s school systems? How can philanthropy help break the cycle of persistent inequality, which undermines our American ideals that public education strengthens democracy and our economy, and promotes justice, equity and opportunity?
Confronting Systemic Inequity in Education offers two high impact strategies for education grantmakers to more effectively achieve their missions and help address the root causes of intergenerational inequalities. It recommends a deliberate focus on the needs of students from marginalized communities and on supporting efforts that seek to influence education policy in the country through advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement.
Providing funds to reduce systemic inequalities is essential. However, hundreds of thousands of children can not wait for the fruits of these initiatives. Foundations must also make it a priority to maintain an active and generous grants-making program for the general operating support of K-12 schools: charter schools, private schools and public schools.
For decades I have been reading this report or that advocating for systemic change in education policy. Many of which are frustratingly duplicative and likely un-heeded. There have been some successes, some improvement is evident, but the pace is slow. Policy makers understand that change can be slow. A seven year-old student is typically not as patient.
Right now, many students lack even basic computer technology, their teachers are aching for better training, and their administrators are frustrated by their inability to purchase new textbooks from their meager budget. Much less, make the capital improvements they know are critical.
Private philanthropy — particularly foundations — can make a measurable and substantial improvement to the educational outcomes of children, this year, and the next, and the next, through a return to general operating support of direct services. I believe responsible and responsive grants-makers should invest in the systemic change for the future as well as invest in the immediate needs of our schools and schoolchildren.