Coalition of Foundations to Invest $506 Million in Education Innovation

Coalition of Foundations to Invest $506 Million in Education Innovation

A coalition of private foundations plans to offer up to half a billion dollars to leverage government efforts to encourage education reform, the Associated Press reports.

A dozen foundations have announced that they plan to invest $506 million in education reform efforts, with some of that designated to match funds from the U.S. Department of Education's $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund (i3). The i3 program provides grants to local educational agencies, nonprofit organizations, and school districts with a demonstrated record of improving student achievement, reducing dropout rates, increasing high school graduation rates, and/or increasing college enrollment and completion rates. Foundation funds also will be used to support innovative proposals that do not receive federal funding. Most of the more than $1.1 billion in government and foundation dollars will be awarded to projects with a successful track record, although Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and leaders of the participating foundations expressed hope that some of the money would be used to support more speculative ideas.

The foundations involved in the effort are the Lumina Foundation for Education, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Annie E. Casey, Bill & Melinda Gates, Charles Stewart Mott, Ford, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, Robertson, Wallace, William and Flora Hewlett, W.K. Kellogg, and Walton Family foundations.

The foundations have partnered to create the Foundation Registry i3, an Internet portal where school districts, schools, and other nonprofits can apply for matching funds from the foundations in a single step. The foundations will be able to post comments, questions, and requests for more information directly on online applications, search for projects that meet their goals, and see who is giving money to which project to avoid giving more than meets the stated goals. The deadline for applications is May 12; grants will be paid out by the end of September.

"Much of what Secretary Duncan is currently addressing at the department builds on existing foundation investments in education," said Carnegie Corporation president Vartan Gregorian. "As such, the twelve foundations realized this is a significant moment to seriously advance student learning so that all of our young people are prepared to succeed in a global economy and for citizenship in a complex world. It was time to maximize our collective efforts."