As boards of education across the country begin their 2012-13 budget processes, city residents should know that private investment in public schools is making a significant difference in helping children from low-income homes excel in school.
In Norwalk, CT, thanks to donations from people who want all children to benefit from a good education, the Carver Foundation of Norwalk is investing $1.2 million this year in its after-school programs. These on-campus programs in Norwalk’s four middle and two high schools are helping 595 low-income students beat the odds.
Since 2005, 100 percent of Carver’s high school students have graduated on time. Last year, 88 percent of Carver’s high school students and 82 percent of our middle school students improved their GPAs. This year, first quarter grades show 24 percent of our students earned high honors and 25 percent of our students earned honors. Only 7 percent of our students had a GPA less than 2.0.
No donor or advocate is more vital to Carver than the Fairfield County Community Foundation (FCCF). Carver is featured in FCCF’s new annual report as a beneficiary of the Ramer Fund, established with a bequest by two former Norwalk Public School teachers. While FCCF has awarded $464,000 in grants to Carver’s summer learning and after-school programs since 1999, it gives far more than money.
FCCF regularly introduces national organizations to Carver, such as Great Schools and the Harvard Family Research Project. It assists Carver in engaging philanthropists and other foundations. FCCF helped us through a leadership transition in 2004, funded Carver’s first development director, and awards professional development and leadership training scholarships for our board and staff.
FCCF invited Carver’s participation in its Fairfield County After School Network (FCASN) and in the Norwalk ACTS Out of School Time Collaborative, both offering opportunities to share best practices.
Private philanthropy helps lay the groundwork for significant gains in public education by supporting the best ideas beyond the reach of the city budget, evaluating results and expanding those that work. The people of Norwalk-or any city-can know that inasmuch as the 2012-13 budget process will invigorate much heated discussion, respected allies such as FCCF are discussing the needs of youth within and far beyond the city’s boundaries.
Novelette Peterkin is executive director of the Carver Foundation of Norwalk.