Foundation invests in N.O. charters

The Texas-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation announced a $25 million investment Wednesday to help create and expand high-performing charter schools in New Orleans.

The foundation, which has offices in Houston and New York City, focuses its investments across the country in the areas of education, criminal justice, public accountability and research integrity.

“The future of our country rests on our ability to educate our kids,” said Caprice Young, vice president of education at the Arnold Foundation. “Everything stems from that.”

In September, the private foundation invested an initial $15 million to support education reform in New Orleans, specifically aimed at developing talented local teachers and leaders, as well as engaging parents in their school selection.

The money went to Alliance for School Choice, Black Alliance for Educational Options, Leading Educators, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, New Schools for New Orleans, Partners for Developing Futures, Relay Graduate School of Education, Students for Education Reform, Teach for America-Greater New Orleans and teachNOLA/TNTP Academy.

The latest $25 million education-focused initiative will be managed through a partnership between the Charter School Growth Fund and New Schools for New Orleans.

The Growth Fund was selected because of its extensive experience leading high-quality schools, Young said.

Young said New Schools for New Orleans was chosen as an organization that “knows New Orleans well and can help us navigate and reach out to a broad sector in New Orleans.”

Young said the money will be used both locally and nationally to help existing charter school operators expand and bring new national charter operators to the city.

New Orleans was chosen, Young said, because the city “has continued committed leadership to educational improvement, and there is so much momentum around the vision — we want to be a part of that.”

New Orleans is at the top of the list for the foundation when looking at successes in reform that can be built upon, Young said.

For education reform across the country, Young said she and the foundation see a great deal of potential. “There are brilliant educators in the U.S. and in New Orleans, and they deserve support to be successful,” she said.

“High-quality public charter schools have changed the landscape of public education in New Orleans,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news release. “We’ve made tremendous gains over the last few years and this investment will help us build on that momentum and support our city’s public education system.

“With support from organizations like the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, we have the opportunity to open doors for even more students and ensure that our children get the excellent education they deserve,” he said.

The investment will continually shift between national and local efforts based on need, Young said, adding that the effort is sustained as some organizations may face “donor fatigue” and as hard economic times often result in cuts to education. “It’s a long-term commitment from the foundation to New Orleans,” she said.