Education Funding

Council for Basic Education Closes Doors

By David J. Hoff — July 14, 2004 4 min read

The Council for Basic Education shut its doors last month after nearly half a century—the victim, its leaders say, of a tight fund-raising environment for education groups.

The 48-year-old advocacy organization for a strong liberal-arts curriculum in schools had found it difficult in recent years to raise money from foundations.

“It’s harder to get money for pure advocacy than it ever has been,” A. Graham Down, the group’s acting president when the group closed, said shortly after the Washington-based council shut down on June 30. “There are a lot of organizations out there doing our kind of work.”

“It has been a hard time for this type of agency,” added Janet B. Keeler, the chairwoman of the group’s board of directors. “What has been done had to be done. We’re all very sad about it.”

As of its 2001 annual report, the most recent one posted on the group’s Web site, the council had $2.8 million in assets. Almost $2 million of its $2.6 million in revenue came from grants and contracts from philanthropies such as the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, as well as several corporations.

Increased Competition

In recent years, several education groups have struggled to finance their projects in the face of constraints on foundation giving and the increased scramble for dollars.

“In the past 10 years, there has been a mushrooming of organizations in education policy,” said Jack Jennings, the director of the Center on Education Policy.

In addition to Mr. Jennings’ organization, which he started in 1995, groups such as Achieve Inc. and the Education Trust have joined the competition for philanthropic support. Also in the past 20 years, the National Governors Association, the Business Roundtable, and other older groups have added to the pressure on limited funds by substantially increasing their education advocacy. In addition, foundations have had to cut back giving in recent years because of declines in the stock market, Mr. Jennings said.

“If foundations aren’t willing to give you steady funding,” he said, “you run the risk of collapsing.”

Mission Accomplished?

The Council for Basic Education was started by a group of prominent intellectuals in 1956 to advance liberal arts education in public schools.

Among the founders were Jacques Barzun, the distinguished Columbia University historian and the author of the 2000 best seller From Dawn to Decadence, among other books; Mary Bingham, whose family owned The Courier-Journal newspaper of Louisville, Ky.; and Clifton Fadiman, a founder of the Book-of-the-Month Club.

In many ways, the council had met all of its goals, according to Mr. Down, who had been the group’s president for 20 years when he retired in 1994. He returned on an acting basis after Raymond “Buzz” Bartlett left the council this spring. At the time, the board thought the organization’s financial problems could be solved, Mr. Down said.

Despite its financial woes, the council can claim credit for some of the changes in education policy in the past 48 years, he added.

All students, he said, now have access to instruction in the basic curriculum needed to participate in society, which had been one of the group’s top priorities.

Mr. Down pointed out that the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to track student achievement in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and once in high school. “All of the things that the council was concerned with were addressed in that act,” he said.

Under Christopher T. Cross, the council’s president from 1994 through 2001, the group actively participated in the debates over defining what students should know in academic standards and assessing whether they had achieved those standards.

For example, Mr. Cross, who served as an assistant U.S. secretary of education during the first Bush administration, convened educators and historians to review a controversial, federally financed set of voluntary national history standards and suggest changes to them.

Earlier this year, the group produced a report, financed by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, that suggested schools were focusing on reading and math at the expense of other subjects to ensure good scores for state and federal accountability systems. (“Principals’ Poll Shows Erosion Of Liberal Arts Curriculum,” March 17, 2004).

Parceling Out

The council’s 12 staff members were given one month’s notice to find new jobs, and many have, according to Mr. Down.

As of last week, Mr. Down said he and others were working to arrange for other groups to finish CBE projects that have been underwritten by funders.

For example, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education will complete work on a program to recruit new teachers in the Mid-Atlantic region. The project—also paid for by the Carnegie Corporation—is scheduled to end in 2006.

A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2004 edition of Education Week as Council for Basic Education Closes Doors

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Biden Pitches 41 Percent Spending Increase for Education Next Year on Top of COVID-19 Aid
The president wants nearly $103 billion for the Department of Education, although history indicates Congress won't approve that request.
4 min read
Conceptual image of money, a mask, and the American flag.
Collage by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: HAKINMHAN/iStock/Getty and Cimmerian/E+)
Education Funding Biden Infrastructure Plan Calls for $100 Billion for School Construction, Upgrades
President Joe Biden's $2 trillion American Jobs Plan would also fund replacement of lead pipes and expand broadband internet access.
4 min read
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen Theater on Dec. 29, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen Theater on Dec. 29, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Education Funding Miguel Cardona Releases $912 Million for Puerto Rico's Schools, Easing Trump Restrictions
Puerto Rico has regained access to hundreds of millions of dollars for education to address the fallout of COVID-19 and other needs.
2 min read
Students arrive at the Ramon Marin Sola primary school for the first time in nearly a year amid the COVID-19 pandemic as some public schools reopen in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 10, 2021.
Students arrive at the Ramon Marin Sola primary school for the first time in nearly a year amid the COVID-19 pandemic as some public schools reopen in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 10.
Danica Coto/AP
Education Funding School Budgets: Why They're Not As Bad As Predicted
Revenue projections are up, but districts aren't out of the woods. Seven questions answered about the evolving landscape for budgets.
11 min read
Image shows a businessman searching for new revenue in unchartered waters standing on a compass among several waves.
iStock/Getty Images Plus