New-Schools Corporation Plots Fund-Raising Strategy

By Jonathan Weisman — October 16, 1991 4 min read

WASHINGTON The New American Schools Development Corporation is taking steps to reignite its stalled fund-raising drive, setting a tentative deadline of December 1992 to raise up to $200 million to underwrite its effort to revamp the nation’s schools.

The group’s board of directors met with President Bush at Camp David, Md., this month to begin the job of plotting its fund-raising strategy, Thomas H. Kean, the corporation’s chairman and the former Governor of New Jersey, said in an interview last week.

The Bush Administration proposed the private, nonprofit corporation last spring as part of its America 2000 education package. (See Education Week, May 8, 1991.)

Formed by business leaders at the President’s request, the new-schools corporation has focused its attention since its rounding in July on formulating the mechanism to award perhaps the largest research’and’development grants in education history.

The corporation plans this week to release its final “request for proposals” from design teams seeking to create model schools and school systems.

With only $36 million raised so far, the corporation’s leaders acknowledge that they have a long way to go before raising the resources needed to fund the ambitious project.

Mr. Kean said last week that the fund-raising responsibility will rest mainly on the corporation’s vice chairmen, who will divvy the nation up regionally.

Louis V. Gerstner Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of RJR Nabisco Inc., will cover the East; James K. Baker, chairman and c.E.o. of Arvin Industries Inc., will handle the Midwest; and Frank Shrontz, chairman and C.E.O. of the Boeing Company, is responsible for the West.

The corporation is also considering hiring a private firm to coordinate the development drive, said Roger D. Semerad, a senior vice president at RJR Nabisco and the treasurer of the newschools corporation.

The campaign will primarily target large corporations and wealthy individuals, but smaller donations will be sought through the efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business associations, said Robert Schneider, a staff consultant at Xerox Corporation on temporary loan to the new-schools organization.

Meetings are scheduled with chamber officials this week to coordinate such efforts, Mr. Schneider said.

‘An American Tragedy’

When the corporation was first unveiled this summer, business leaders, educators, and philanthropy executives expressed concern that the corporation would not be able to raise the $150 million to $200 million it sought, or that it would reach its goal, but at the expense of existing privately funded education efforts. (See Education Week, July 31, 1991.)

Mr. Kean acknowledged such concerns last week when he addressed a group of business executives at the National Alliance of Business’s annual development-council meeting.

Estimating that less than 20 percent of business’s efforts to help education achieve real results, the former Governor encouraged the business executives to consider whether resources could be marshaled more effectively into one education “Manhattan Project"--name ly, the new-schools effort.

“We’re not the only game in town,” he said, “but we’re the only game in town that can succeed.”

It would be “an American tragedy,” he added, if the radical reconfiguration of American schooling faltered because the corporate community was unwilling to pay for it.

“I can conceive of this [project] failing,” Mr. Kean admitted in an interview last week, pointing to the possibility that design teams will either not produce truly radical new education models or that radical models will not be widely replicated.

“But I cannot conceive of this failing because American business was unwilling to pay for it,” he said.

The initial winners of the first 20 to 30 design contracts will be named on April 30.

Those first one-year planning grants will likely range from $500,000 to $3 million, Mr. Schneider said. He estimated that about $40 million in contracts would be awarded in the first round.

Getting Serious

Deputy Secretary of Education David T. Kearns raised the bulk of the $36 million now in the corporation’s coffers last spring, when he was still chairman of Xerox, Mr. Schneider said.

He also said that corporations whose executives now sit on the board for the new-schools corporation donated most of the money.

Raising the rest could be considerably more difficult, leaders of the project say.

“We have got to get serious about fund-raising now,” Mr. Kean said.

The corporation’s full board of directors met for the first time on Oct. 4 at the President’s Camp David retreat.

Although Mr. Bush, Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, and Mr. Kearns sat in on the meeting, Mr. Kean said the group used the opportunity to “sever the umbilical cord” from the project’s political parentage.

Indeed, the President offered little more than his encouragement during the meeting, Mr. Kean said, adding that the main reason the meeting was held at Camp David was that organizers recognized that only a Presidential invitation could draw so many chief executive officers at the same time.

Mr. Kean expressed confidence that the new-schools corporation would sufficiently distance itself from partisan politics to assure its continuation, regardless of the outcome of the 1992 election.

A version of this article appeared in the October 16, 1991 edition of Education Week as New-Schools Corporation Plots Fund-Raising Strategy