New American Schools, which for nearly a decade has worked to create and perfect models for redesigning entire schools, is turning its attention to making sure the providers of those designs have access to the financial capital they need to expand.
Last week, the Arlington, Va.-based organization announced a $15.7 million fund to provide loans and technical assistance to the providers of its research-based, whole-school designs and to school districts putting the designs into place.
The decade-long push for greater accountability in education, combined with millions of new dollars in federal funding, has dramatically increased the demand for design-based assistance. But many observers worry that there are not enough well-qualified providers, ranging from university-based programs to for-profit companies, to meet the demand for implementing such measures, particularly at dozens of schools at a time, or across a whole district.
The problem of expansion is particularly acute for nonprofit providers. “The fund was motivated by the need to give nonprofits a level playing field in the market,” said Dean Millot, the vice president of the fund for NAS. For-profit groups will also be eligible for loans.
‘Supply Side’ Improvement
New American Schools, a nonprofit corporation created to support the development and dissemination of whole-school designs, began its work on the Education Entrepreneurs Fund three years ago, with grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the Knight Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. But it received a major boost last week, when the Prudential Insurance Co. of America, the nation’s largest insurer, agreed to loan $10 million to the effort through its social-investment program.
Most of the 10-year, low-interest loan—$7 million—will be available to support the work of individual design teams, of which there are currently eight. The remaining $3 million will provide districts with financing to jump-start their adoption of whole-school designs on a large scale. Like the providers, districts will have to repay the loans over time.
Providers who want to borrow from the fund will first have to become part of NAS’ portfolio of design-based technical-assistance providers by meeting quality standards currently being written. They then could submit a request for investment and undergo a review process.
Mr. Millot estimated that most loans would average $500,000; they could range from short-term loans to multiyear commitments. New American Schools initially plans to raise a total of $25 million for the fund.
A version of this article appeared in the March 08, 2000 edition of Education Week as NAS Launches Loan Fund To Support Adoption of School Designs