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9 of 11 Design Teams To Get NASDC Funding

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Nine of the 11 design teams funded by the New American Schools Development Corporation will receive new, two-year contracts to carry out their blueprints, the NASDC board voted last week.

NASDC officials refused last week to comment on the June 1 board meeting. But independent reports indicated that all but two of the teams that have spent the past year devising prototypes for "break the mold'' schools would be funded during the 1993-95 testing-and-implementation phase.

It was not clear last week, however, how much funding the projects will receive. Grants under the first phase of the initiative ranged from nearly $1 million to more than $2.7 million.

In its initial request for proposals, NASDC specified that none of the designs should exceed $20 million over the planned five-year period. Some of the figures mentioned last week ranged from $1.9 million for the first year of testing and implementation to $4 million for the second.

Corporation officials said that a formal announcement would be made this week but that no contracts have yet been signed.

By last week, only the Odyssey Project, in Gaston County, N.C., had officially announced that it would not receive a new contract. The school-restructuring effort had come under fire from Christian activists who charged that the program is academically weak and would undermine their children's religious beliefs. (See Education Week, March 10, 1993.)

But it also appeared that the Bensenville Community Design in Bensenville, Ill., had lost NASDC's support.

"We know that they had their meeting on Tuesday, but when we called, we were just told that there would be an official release,'' said Len Sirotzki, the project's director.

"In the meantime,'' he said, "we have been working in anticipation of the fact that someday NASDC would not be available.''

Community leaders last week announced the formation of the Bensenville 2000 Education Coalition, which will form a nonprofit foundation to raise money from other sources.

Riley in Attendance

A private, nonprofit corporation, NASDC was launched by American business leaders at the request of President Bush to help spur the development of innovative schools.

But the corporation has been plagued by funding problems since its inception. To date, NASDC has raised only about $50 million of its $200 million goal, leading many observers to question its long-term prospects.

The corporation received a much-needed boost last month when President Clinton endorsed it during a White House ceremony to honor outstanding elementary schools.

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley attended last week's board meeting and spoke about how the corporation's efforts "dovetail'' with the Administration's attempts to reform schools, said Katherine Kahler, the communications director for the Education Department.

Also on the agenda at last week's meeting were a revised fund-raising strategy--at least the third since the group's inception--and potential changes in the board of directors.

But outside observers continued last week to express doubts about NASDC's future. Several philanthropic officers said they have been approached in the past year by design-team members worried about NASDC's ability to continue funding them.

"What I've heard is that they have very little money in the till,'' said Robert B. Schwartz, the director of education programs for the Pew Charitable Trusts. "I gather that what this means is that they are now, at least, committed to an aggressive fund-raising campaign,'' he said of the board's actions.

'We Are Elated'

At least one group was jubilant about last week's decisions. Gregory A. Dry Sr., a member of Concerned Citizens for Public Education, the grassroots group that fought against the Odyssey Project, said: "We are elated about it. This is what we had hoped to see from day one.''

Sandra G. Frye, a spokeswoman for the Gaston County district, said it has not yet decided whether to pursue other funding.

The projects to receive new grants are: ATLAS Communities in Providence, R.I.; the Audrey Cohen College Design Team in New York City; the Community Learning Centers in Minneapolis; and the Co-NECT School project in Cambridge, Mass.

Also, Expeditionary Learning in Boston; the Los Angeles Learning Centers; the Modern Red Schoolhouse in Indianapolis; the National Alliance for Restructuring Education in Rochester, N.Y.; and Roots and Wings in Baltimore.

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