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K-12 Education Focus of Annenberg Mission Statement

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In the first mission statement it has adopted since its 1989 creation, the Annenberg Foundation, whose $1.2 billion in assets make it one of the nation's richest philanthropies, announced this month that K-12 education would be its primary focus.

"I think a certain window of opportunity has opened up in this country," Mary Ann Meyers, the foundation's president, said last week of the growing interest in education. "We have an opportunity to make a difference."

While the mission statement does not spell out specific areas of educational interest, it says a primary concern will be innovations in the communication of ideas and knowledge.

This month, for instance, Annenberg awarded $150,000 to Recording for the Blind Inc. to launch a math-and-science initiative.

It also gave $250,000 to Equinox Films to produce a four-part film on human languages, to be aired on public-television stations and in the nation's classrooms.

Ms. Meyers said the foundation is currently in an "information-gathering phase."

She said she has spoken to federal officials about possible math and science projects and will talk to the Bush Administration about projects that could supplement the President's America 2000 education initiative.

The foundation awarded approximately $67 million in grants last fiscal year, when the focus was primarily on higher education, health, and the arts. Ms. Meyers said this year's grants should total about $65 million, with about $20 million available for new projects.

The St. Davids, Pa.-based foundation was started by the publishing magnate Walter H. Annenberg with the proceeds from the sale of much of his magazine empire to the Australian communications tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Annenberg's move from traditional funding targets like the arts and higher education follows shifting focuses of other major foundations.

Earlier this year, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the nation's second-largest philanthropy, announced that it would channel its funds to grassroots projects that promise to be a boon to education initiatives.

The Lilly Endowment in Indianapolis has nearly quadrupled its education and youth-program support since 1985. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund approved a new education fund a year ago, and the Pew Charitable Trusts approved new guidelines for education grants last December.

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