Grants Foreshadow Knight's Foray Into K-12 Philanthropy

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The Miami-based Knight Foundation has awarded two $150,000 grants for elementary- and high school projects, foreshadowing what officials of the philanthropy say is an "anticipated move" into the precollegiate-education arena.

The first grant was awarded earlier this fall to the Dade County, Fla., schools to help support the newly opened South Pointe Elementary School in Miami Beach. South Pointe is believed to be the first public school operated in partnership with a for-profit educational-consulting firm.

The firm involved, Educational Alternatives Inc. of Minneapolis, is providing an experimental curriculum and pedagogical approach that will cost $2.4 million more through the 1993-94 school year than the school district will allocate. The three-year Knight grant will help make up the difference, specifically funding a computer-assisted-learning project that stresses customized instruction, parental involvement, and outcome-based assessment.

The foundation has also awarded a three-year, $150,000 grant to Georgia's Bibb County school district for another project that uses computers to assist learning. The grant will help the district introduce a computer-based curriculum, developed by an Israeli company called Edunetics Corporation, in its four high schools. Instruction will focus on science, mathematics, social sciences, and language arts.

For the Knight Foundation, the grants mark a departure from its traditional emphases of higher education, journalism, and arts programs. The foundation--established in 1950 by John S. and James L. Knight, founders of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain--also has a program to provide philanthropic support to the communities in which the chain has newspapers.

Through that "Cities Program," the foundation has aided education-related projects. But such grants have been sporadic, and direct aid to precollegiate education by the philanthropy has been rare, according to Virginia Henke, the foundation's communications director.

'The Need We Kept Hearing'

After soliciting advice from community members who have been involved in the Cities Program, Knight Foundation executives decided to begin moving into K-12 education.

"It was the need we kept heating over and over again," Ms. Henke said.

An official announcement of the new emphasis is expected early next year, she said.

The Cities Program was active in 26 cities in 16 states last year, including San Jose, Calif., Miami, Macon, Ga., Philadelphia, and St. Paul. For those cities, the anticipated move into precollegiate education could be a boon for reform initiatives.

Last year, Knight distributed some $23 million in grants, making it one of the nation's largest private foundations.

Knight's new direction follows a trend toward K-12 giving by major philanthropies. Last January, for example, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced a renewed emphasis on community-based projects that will channel more resources into education. (See Education Week, Jan. 9, 1991 .)

And both the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Pew Charitable Trusts recently approved new grant guidelines to encourage applicants with innovative education proposals.

The Lilly Endowment in Indianapolis, meanwhile, has nearly quadrupled its education and youth program support since 2985.

Vol. 11, Issue 11, Page 8

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