Education is the second most-funded issue area in philanthropy. This is a broad category that includes capital campaigns for universities, measures of teacher effectiveness, and charter schools. How much of philanthropic funding is allocated to reduce inequities so that all students have fair access to a quality K-12 education? And how would we measure that with the data available?
The Schott Foundation for Public Education worked with Candid to critically examine the ultimate measure of education philanthropy's priorities: where the grant dollars go. For the first time, we can assess the collective philanthropic impact of giving in the education sector through a lens of racial equity and racial justice, telling the story of what we prioritize and revealing blind spots in our collective response.
Finding 1: Both Racial Equity and Racial Justice are Drastically Underfunded by Education Philanthropy
Racial Equity and Racial Justice: What’s the Difference?
For the purposes of our study, we took care to parse out grants that may look similar on the face, but actually have significant differences.
- Racial equity refers to grants designed to close the achievement gap that persists between racial groups. Grants for racial equity include support for programs such as racial bias trainings for teachers or mentorship programs for Black and brown students.
- Racial justice refers to grants designed to close the opportunity gap — the underlying systemic injustices that create the achievement gap in the first place. Racial justice grants focus explicitly on empowering people closest to the problem (families and students) organizing in their communities to change the systems and structures that generate and reinforce racial inequity. Racial justice grantmaking supports building community power, supporting policy change, engaging with policymakers, building partnerships with advocates to advance racial equity.
In short, racial equity grants address symptoms, while racial justice grants address root causes by strengthening the foundation, or bedrock, of efforts to achieve equity.
Here’s a sampling of the language used in grant descriptions that were considered “racial justice”:
Finding 2: While the Need is Growing, Funding is Shrinking
Funding data from 2011 to 2018, indicate that overall philanthropic giving increased dramatically, growing 48%. At the same time, the proportion of philanthropic dollars for K-12 education shrunk slightly, by 7%. Funding for racial equity and justice took a hammering, shrinking by 36% in the same interval.
Finding 3: Racial Justice Funding is Unevenly Distributed
K-12 racial justice funding is concentrated in the Northeast. The majority of dollars, 63%, went to organizations based there. Only 16% went to those located in the South and 17% to those in the West. Meanwhile, 43% of all K-12 public school students of color are enrolled in the South and 29% in the West.
In some cases, the recipients of grants spend those resources in a different region — for example, the Schott Foundation is based in the Northeast but funds organizations across the country. However, the fact that so few grant recipients are located in the region with the plurality of students of color is a serious disproportionality that Schott will examine closely in future research.
What Can Be Done?
Movements for racial justice in education are growing in a moment when, due in large part to the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprisings for racial justice, the future direction of public education is more open to change than ever before. Now is our chance to re-imagine and make systemic changes in education that lay the foundation for equity of opportunity for children of color, if funders across the philanthropic spectrum invest now in racial justice in K-12 education. There’s never been a more pertinent time.
For almost 30 years, the Schott Foundation has put the struggle for racial justice at the heart of our grantmaking strategy. In that time we’ve worked closely with other funders who are looking to shift their priorities in a similar direction.
We invite you to partner with us to make the critical investments needed to help move the arc of our nation’s public education system toward greater racial justice in the years ahead. Children of color, indeed our nation’s future, depend on it.
Click here to download a FAQ about the methodology used in researching the philanthropic data.