“It’s not unsolvable; There are solutions. How Raikes Supports Fair School Funding and More
The Raikes Foundation works to improve the lives of young people by reducing youth homelessness and improving educational outcomes. The foundation was started in 2002 by Jeff and Tricia Raikes, who met while both working at Microsoft. (Fun fact: They were the first couple to meet at the company and marry while there.) Jeff Raikes went on to become CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which he led from 2008 to 2014.
The Raikes decided to put young people at the center of their philanthropy because of their experience as parents of three children, all of whom faced challenges as they grew up. The couple realized that while their own children, who had so many privileges, were struggling, “millions of young people without the resources of the Raikes were dependent on old-fashioned institutions that didn’t really support their development,” according to the site. Foundation website. These outdated institutions include our education system, which was designed for a bygone era and a much less diverse population.
The result is a foundation that takes on battles that not all K-12 funders are ready to fight. For one thing, he tackles the stubborn problem of dysfunctional and inequitable public school funding, even recruiting peers to do the same. He is also on a small list of funders who oppose conservatives who fuel panic over what they call critical race theory. And in 2020, Raikes created the Black Leadership & Power Fund “to support the dismantling of anti-black racism.”
Prioritization of racial equity comes from the top – Jeff Raikes regularly writes about diversity, equity and inclusion for Forbes. His op-eds feature titles such as “Dear White CEOs: It’s Time to Lead Racial Justice”; and “It’s up to us to stop the assault on our democracy and carry on the remarkable legacy of John Lewis”. In 2019, IP named him “Most Woke Rich White Guy” at our annual Philanthropy Awards.
With Raikes’ recent appearance in all sorts of exciting educational fundraising, we thought it was time to catch up on his leadership and find out more about what makes the foundation tick these days. Here are a few things to know about the foundation and what it has been up to lately.
An ed strategy with three main pillars
The three pillars of the foundation’s education strategy include: centering equity in everything we do, leveraging the science of learning and development, and building systems equipped to scale. “We’re focused on those three anchors, but I would say we do it all,” said Zoë Stemm-Calderon, director of education at Raikes. “We fund the research, we fund the program, we fund the policy.”
Raikes pursues its education strategy by supporting a range of educational networks and projects. It supports the Building Equitable Learning Environments Network (BELE), which works to close the achievement gap by ensuring underserved students have access to high-quality learning opportunities, and the Student Experience Project ( SEP), which helps diverse students adapt and succeed. To college. Raikes also supports the Student Experience Research Network (formerly the Mindset Scholars Network), a group of academics who conduct research on learning approaches and mindsets, and the impact on student achievement.
The foundation emphasizes collaboration and data-driven research, and a look at its grants database shows that these priorities are reflected in its ed funding. As of 2020, the Raikes Foundation had assets of nearly $131 million and it has distributed over $25 million in grants. Education is by far its largest area of funding, accounting for nearly 47% of its grants in 2020, according to its annual report. However, it is not easily accessible to grant seekers: the foundation only accepts proposals by invitation. As the foundation’s IP profile says, “That’s a tough problem to solve.”
Raikes focuses on equity in education financing
When we recently reached out to Raikes about their ed funding, the Resource Equity Funders Collaborative (REFC) was what they really wanted to talk about. REFC is a coalition of funders that focuses specifically on inequities in school funding and supports national and state organizations working to address these inequities.
“In our work with education officials and school system officials, what we kept hearing was, ‘Yes, we can improve the quality of teachers, we can improve teacher experiences. learning that we offer in schools. But at some point, if we really want this to be accessible to all students, regardless of neighborhood and zip code, we have to look at these larger structural issues around the policies that shape how we fund our schools. Stemm – Calderon explained.
School districts receive their funding from local, state, and federal sources, and research shows that the size of this support varies greatly from district to district. Non-white school districts are alarming, as EdBuild’s analysis makes clear: “For every student enrolled, the average non-white school district receives $2,226 less than a white school district.” Overall, nonwhite school districts receive $23 billion less total funding than white school districts, despite having the same number of students.
When Raikes began to look closely at the issue of school funding and how educational resources are allocated, they realized the problem was too big to solve alone – they would need partners. School funding is a complicated and mind-numbing topic, and Stemm-Calderon says it’s an area that many education funders have traditionally strayed from because they didn’t think they could have an impact. .
“When REFC started, many donors were talking about advancing equity in education; there weren’t as many funders addressing some of these root causes, like school funding, which was often seen as intractable, hard to move, and just too hard to solve,” said she declared.
But the REFC has grown as more and more funders have realized that funding is the key to equity in education. Raikes was a founding member of the collaboration, along with the WK Kellogg and Yellow Chair foundations. Other partners include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the William Penn Foundation.
“One thing we think about a lot at REFC is how do we get more funders to recognize that this is a root cause, that this is one of the places where our education is not benefiting everybody ?” said Stemm-Calderon. “And that you can fund in a way to move this issue forward. It is not unsolvable; There are solutions.
REFC works with coalitions of diverse grassroots groups and organizations that deploy a range of strategies to push for school funding reforms. “The idea is that student needs should be the driving force,” Stemm-Calderon said. “These are broad coalitions across the country advocating for education funding based on what children need based on where they live.”
Raikes sidesteps the ongoing debate over charter schools versus traditional schools
One potentially intractable debate that Raikes management decided to keep out of our interview is the merits of charters versus traditional public schools. They are not alone here, as a number of education funders we spoke to recently seem to take a similarly neutral stance.
Over the years, debates over charters versus traditional public schools have intensified as some education officials and funders have championed the flexibility and competition that charter schools offer as a solution to a number problems in our education system. Opponents, meanwhile, accuse charter schools of draining funding from traditional public schools and undermining teachers’ unions. Some funders who were early boosters seem to be backing down as charter schools have failed to scale: despite being part of the educational landscape for 30 years, only 7% of students attended such schools in 2019, according to government statistics. And while some charter schools have shown impressive results for students, the overall results are mixed.
The Raikes Foundation’s goal, Stemm-Calderon points out, is to create an education system that works for everyone. Beyond that, she chose not to discuss the issue of charters versus traditional public schools. While the foundation supports coalitions that take varied positions on charter schools and charter politics, and has supported charter school development in the past, its grants database does not include funding for major chartered organizations or networks from 2019 to 2022.
Raikes pushes back against attacks on so-called critical race theory
As critical race theory debates erupted across the country, Raikes joined a small group of funders and nonprofits to advocate for anti-racism education and racial justice in the public schools, a development we covered at IP. Raikes supports the Schott Foundation for Public Education’s Invest Together Fund, which provides grants to organizations that resist such attacks, for example. And last year he provided $50,000 to the National Public Education Support Fund for “narrative and policy work” on the issue.
Jeff Raikes himself took a tough stance. In a column for Forbes titled “Bad for Business: How ‘Critical Race Theory’ Bans Are Limiting American Progress,” Raikes argued that if students are shielded from the truth of history, they will be ill-prepared for the job market and for the roles leadership in the future. “Banning tough conversations — and leading with fear — is contrary to what has made our country and its businesses successful,” Raikes wrote, urging business leaders to speak out against the attacks.