Moving forward, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) will seek to support local education leaders by funding a newly created nonprofit organization called The City Fund. The goal of the The City Fund will be to increase the number of students who have access to a great public education, so they can further their education, get great jobs, and lead lives full of opportunity.
In many ways, The City Fund represents both an enhancement and extension of the education reform efforts previously undertaken within the LJAF operation. Several former LJAF team members are transitioning to The City Fund, where they will be joined by representatives from Education Cities, as well as expert practitioners from the state, district, charter and non-profit sectors. Together, this group of individuals will work with cities that are interested in learning from the successes of cities such as Denver, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, tailor them to their own communities, and partner with researchers to see if public education improves for all children in the city.
Unlike many traditional school systems where school leaders must follow a specific instructional program and adhere to district mandates, schools in these cities have a great deal of autonomy in their decision making. They select their own curriculum and materials, hire teachers and staff, and control the campus budget. Families in these cities also have access to public schools through an open enrollment process. A recent evaluation of this approach in New Orleans found evidence of positive impacts on high school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion.
Now, supported by the anchor donors of LJAF and Reed Hastings, The City Fund will partner with a small number of cities who wish to try the approach. As the organization’s founding team writes: “If cities show progress, we hope other cities will follow. If they don’t, we hope other promising innovations are able to scale, so that all students can have access to amazing public schools.”