A group of local charities and companies has formed a foundation to fund innovative programs and foster collaboration in local schools, and it could mean millions of dollars for schools, particularly those in Buffalo.
The foundation, known as the Education Fund for Greater Buffalo, is starting out with $500,000, which it hopes to expand into millions through local fund-raising and grants from national foundations.
"We believe we can have a great impact if we pool our resources," said Robert Bennett, a state Regent and president of United Way of Buffalo and Erie County.
The purpose isn't to supplant regular operating funds, but to promote school reform while helping children deal with their social as well as academic needs, according to organizers. A primary objective is to promote collaboration among school districts and link schools with outside entities such as social-service agencies.
Public and private schools throughout Erie Country are eligible, although foundation founders said Buffalo public schools will be the primary beneficiary because of their many needs.
The United Way, the Buffalo Foundation and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, have been working with educators to establish the Education Fund for Greater Buffalo. The Buffalo Foundation will administer grants. Contributors can call 852-2857.
The Education Fund will begin soliciting proposals for specific projects later this year and expects to start issuing grants within a year. The fund will focus on five areas: promotion of early literacy, best educational practices, professional and leadership development, school/work experience and family support programs aligned with community agencies.
Decisions on what projects to fund will be made by a board including the founders and other community members, with input from an advisory board made up of educators, parents, union leaders and others active in the school community.
With everyone from corporations to teacher unions to city and suburban school officials on board, the Education Fund appears to hold promise.
State Education Commissioner Richard Mills, who along with Mayor Masiello spoke at the Friday's press conference announcing the fund, said it can help schools improve.
"I think the private sector is doing exactly the right thing," Mills said.
Founding members of the fund include the Buffalo Foundation, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the United Way, the Peter Cornell Trust, the Josephine Goodyear Foundation, the Margaret Wendt Foundation, Bell Atlantic, Fleet Bank, Key Bank, Marine Midland Bank and National Fuel Gas.