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Education Philanthropist Eli Broad to Step Down From His Foundation

By Andrew Ujifusa — October 12, 2017 2 min read
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Eli Broad, the longtime leader of a Los Angeles-based foundation that seeks to initiate dramatic changes to school systems and educational leadership, has announced that he will retire from public life.

The 84-year-old Broad is the founder of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. The organization supports charter schools, conducts a training academy for superintendents of public school systems, and for more than a decade, awarded the Broad Prize to urban districts that demonstrated both improved academic performance overall and showed progress in shrinking achievement gaps between groups of students, among other activities. The New York Times first reported news of Broad’s retirement on Thursday. Broad named a new president at the foundation, Gerun Riley, in 2016.

When he unveiled the Broad Prize in 2002, Broad said he hoped that he would be viewed as the equivalent of the Nobel or Pulitzer prizes for education. Districts including New York City, Miami-Dade, and Houston have won the prize since then, although it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the endeavor—in 2015, the group announced it was suspending the annual prize. The foundation continues to award a $250,000 annual prize to charter schools, an award that began five years ago.

The Broad Academy, meanwhile, has trained nearly 700 district superintendents, according to its website, including John Deasy, the former chief of the district in Los Angeles, where the Broad Foundation was particularly active. However, critics of the academy say it trains future superintendents in harmful corporate-management techniques, and also encourages them to leave parents and teachers out in the cold.

The foundation also provides grants to numerous high-profile organizations, from Teach For America to Success Academy charter schools. The plurality of the group’s $590 million in education-focused donations since 1999, or $144 million, have gone to charter schools, according to the foundation. (The foundation has provided grant support in the past to Education Week.)

Earlier this year, Broad lobbied senators to reject Betsy DeVos as President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the U.S. Secretary of Education, citing “her support for unregulated charter schools and vouchers as well as the potential conflicts of interest she might bring to the job.” But he’s also been a sharp critic of traditional public schools.

“It’s not just that public schools aren’t producing the results we want—it’s that we’re not giving them what they need to help students achieve at high levels,” Broad wrote in a 2012 commentary piece for Education Week titled “Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste.”

The foundation also does philanthropic work in the arts and sciences.

This story has been corrected to reflect Riley’s title at the Broad Foundation and the length of time the charter school prize has been awarded.

Photo: Eli Broad speaks at a ceremony announcing the 2013 Broad Prize for Urban Education in Washington --Diane Bondareff/Invision for The Broad Foundation/AP-File


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