The Schott Foundation for Public Education was co-founded in 1991 by Lilo Leeds and her son, Greg Jobin-Leeds. The Foundation is named after Lilo’s parents, Caroline and Sigmund Schott, German-Jewish immigrants who escaped Nazi Germany with their daughter and built successful lives in the United States.
Since its inception as a family foundation, The Schott Foundation has possessed an unwavering commitment to equity and justice that guides its mission to develop and strengthen a broad-based and representative movement to achieve fully resourced, high quality PreK–12 public education for all children. Schott’s core belief is that a grassroots movement is central to creating systemic change to address the disparities poor children and children of color face in schools. In helping to build this movement, Schott recognizes its pivotal role as both funder and advocate and engages in strategic collaborations with grassroots organizations and philanthropic partners who refuse to accept inequitable and substandard education for children in the U.S.
At the outset, Greg Jobin-Leeds, as Schott’s founding President and CEO, focused the organization’s strategy for achieving equitable educational opportunities squarely on systemic policy change. Under his leadership, the Foundation developed a long-term funding strategy that helped achieve education policy changes in New York and Massachusetts.
In the mid-1990s, The Schott Foundation provided seed funding to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), which brought its landmark court case against the State of New York over the state’s unjust educational funding formula. The case sparked a statewide push to boldly reform New York’s public education funding policy.
Several years later in the late-1990s, The Schott Foundation provided seed money to start the Early Education for All campaign in Massachusetts. Convinced that all children need quality early education programs in order to flourish in public school, Schott saw this as a way to create a movement to promote quality early education programs for all children in Massachusetts. Until the inception of Early Education for All, insufficient focus and leadership kept this critical cause from moving more forward for tens of thousands of families and children in Massachusetts.
In 1999 Schott became a public charity. Because the Foundation’s vision for change held that those most affected must lead the way in advocating for change, the Leeds and Jobin-Leeds families sustained their funding commitment but gave up a large degree of control, and Schott engaged a more inclusive and broad-based leadership.
In 2001, The Schott Foundation entered a new phase of growth when Dr. Rosa A. Smith became president. Her work around framing the educational vulnerability of young Black males as the litmus test for the No Child Left Behind Act has drawn national attention. Looking at the issue of gender with a racial lens, this new area of Schott’s work — including the ongoing biennial report series on Black Boys educational achievement nationwide — has led school districts across the country to re-examine how they educate and measure the outcomes of the students who are most vulnerable to failure in the education system.
Learn more about our current research on race and gender in education.
In 2007, Dr. John H. Jackson became Schott’s current President and CEO. Under his leadership, Schott continued to release its biennial Black Boys Report series, which has provided the data fueling philanthropic, governmental and activist campaigns nationwide to improve the achievement of black male students in public education.
A significant milestone in this work was the launch of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, which seeks to shine a light on the issues impacting young black male students both in the classroom and in their communities and to leverage governmental, philanthropic and private sector support to address these issues. Dr. Jackson served on the Executive Alliance that advised the development of the Initiative.
One of Dr. Jackson’s most important contributions to The Schott Foundation was the establishment of the National Opportunity to Learn Network (first known as the OTL Campaign), to link together Schott’s growing national portfolio of grantees. The OTL Network also provides a whole-child framework for understand the many “opportunity gaps” or disparities that exist in the public education system, from early education to school funding to school discipline, and which must be addressed in order to close persistent achievement gaps between students of different backgrounds.
The OTL framework has proven politically potent and Schott’s grantees have used it to build powerful, broad-based campaigns in several cities.
Schott grantees played a key role in shaping the 2013 New York City mayoral election. They led a citywide participatory action aboard a blue school bus that made stops throughout the city where parents, students, teachers and community members could learn about and vote on different education priorities. The agenda they developed set the tone for mayoral debates and led to Bill de Blasio’s eventual election. Schott’s grantees continue to play a pivotal role in holding the new administration accountable to following through on de Blasio’s campaign promises, and several grantee staffers have served on mayoral advisory panels.
More recently, Schott grantees played a similarly critical role in prioritizing education issues in Pennsylvania’s 2014 gubernatorial race and the 2015 Philadelphia mayoral race and in backing candidates committed to addressing educational inequities.
More recently, Schott helped to found the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a nationwide network of community organizations and labor groups committed to presenting a united front in the fight to ensure equal opportunity in our nation’s classrooms.
Get the latest from Schott’s grantees and allies by visiting our OTL Network here.
As Schott has expanded its grantmaking and advocacy across the country, from ballot initiatives in Mississippi to participatory budgeting in California, Schott has begun to leverage its research capacity to focus attention not just on the struggles children face but also on proactive policy solutions. Since 2012, Schott has partnered with allied organizations to produced numerous policy guides for advocates and elected officials, pointing the way for lawmakers who want to make systemic change and need a place to start. The Schott communications team has also produced numerous infographics and fact sheets to help make complex education issues more accessible and easier to act on.
More than two decades after Schott’s founding, we are more committed than ever to helping build this movement and institutionalizing the solutions that provide all students with a fair and substantive opportunity to learn.