Education Funding

Matching Grants Have Bolstered Annenberg’s 1993 Gift

By Catherine Gewertz — February 02, 2000 3 min read
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When former Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg announced an unprecedented gift of $500 million to public education in December 1993, he intended the money as a challenge to both the public and private sectors to step up financial support of schools. In that, the Annenberg Challenge has succeeded—generating an additional $566 million for 18 school reform projects around the country, a report from its administrators concludes.

The study released last month by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University in Providence, R.I., shows that the grants, which required matched funding, collectively sparked more than $351 million in commitments from private sources and $215 million from public sources.

For More Information

Read the report, Meeting the Challenge. Print copies can be obtained from Celeste Randolph, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University, PO Box 1985, Providence, RI 02912; (401) 863-1714; e- mail: (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The grant recipients obtained more than 1,300 contributions from private donors, ranging from $5 individual contributions to larger amounts from local businesses, community groups and foundations, universities, and large corporations.

The largest match was $35 million from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in the San Francisco Bay area.

Barbara T. Cerone, the national coordinator of the Annenberg Challenge and a co-author of the study, said she was delighted by the findings. Not only were the gifts surprisingly generous, she said, but the money also was raised on or ahead of schedule, and grant recipients raised $16 million more than they were required to raise, she said.

“The findings exceed our expectations,” Ms. Cerone said. “All of us involved with the Challenge look at this as a success story.”

Community Action

Of all the private contributors, foundations collectively accounted for the largest share—76 percent—with $268.78 million, the study found.

Seven foundations made contributions of $10 million or more. Corporations provided 19 percent ($65.7 million), with individuals and other charitable organizations providing the remaining 5 percent ($16.6 million).

The pattern of response from philanthropic and corporate donors, the study authors conclude, represents both a broadening base of support for efforts to improve education and a greater collaboration among foundations that have been traditional supporters.

The projects that received the matching grants serve a total of 2,400 schools and 1.5 million students in 35 states, the Annenberg Institute reported.

All the projects seek to increase community involvement in schools and to improve student performance, with a particular focus on upgrading curriculum, teaching methods, leadership, and assessment.

Each program is designed and implemented by local planning groups to suit particular communities’ needs.

Eight of the 18 projects have already met or exceeded their fund-raising goals, and the remainder are on schedule in raising their matching dollars, the study found.

The $550 million raised so far represents 85 percent of the Annenberg Challenge’s total fund-raising goal of $648.2 million.

Peter W. Cookson, the director of the Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation at Teachers College, Columbia University, said the fund-raising shows that Annenberg initiatives have the support to “put down roots,” which is “an achievement in a volatile environment.” But he cautioned that even those efforts are unlikely to produce lasting systemwide change.

“It’s enough to make the lives of some kids better, but will it reformurban education?” he said. “No. That’s a political issue, and one we seem to avoid in this country.” urban education?” he said. “No. That’s a political issue, and one we seem to avoid in this country.”

Many donors contributed to multiple projects. IBM, for example, contributed to seven projects, AT&T to six, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to five each.

The report notes that not all donations went directly to or through Annenberg projects. The Annenberg Challenge certified donations as “matching” when they “support school reform projects consistent with the Annenberg project’s vision and funding criteria.”

Fund raising should conclude in late 2002, said Soterios C. Zoulas, a spokesman for the Annenberg Challenge.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 02, 2000 edition of Education Week as Matching Grants Have Bolstered Annenberg’s 1993 Gift


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