Two nonprofit educational organizations said Thursday they are merging, with plans to expand their programs that largely operate in the Los Angeles Unified school district to districts countywide.
The two groups, LA’s Promise and the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education, said the new organization, the LA Promise Fund for Public Schools, will offer their current programs to the 80 other school districts within Los Angeles County, the most populous in California. The aim is to enhance academic and career prospects through enrichment programs for a greater number of students.
“Today is day one,” said Veronica Melvin, the CEO of LA’s Promise, who will lead the new organization. “Our approach will be to engage one-on-one with superintendents or board members across the county to let them know how we can help them grow.”
Thursday’s announcement is the second in recent months by private organizations embarking on a fundraising drive to help students in and around Los Angeles. It follows the creation of Great Public Schools Now, whose goal is to identify successful programs within L.A. Unified, the second-largest school district in the country, and replicate them through financial grants in high-poverty neighborhoods within the district.
The two efforts are unrelated, but taken together, they reflect a willingness of outside organizations to aid public school districts at a time when many of them are pressing to balance a high demand for quality education with budgetary constraints. The L.A. Unified board this week approved a $7.6 billion budget for the coming school year, but district officials have warned of a possible deficit by 2018-2019.
The new entity will continue to run three schools in south Los Angeles that have been managed by LA’s Promise since 2006. Those schools are the result of a negotiated arrangement with the district that differentiates them from traditional L.A.Unified schools in how they’re run in an effort to improve academic performance. The schools – two large South L.A. high schools (Manual Arts and West Adams Prep) and one middle school (John Muir) – have greater autonomy over budget, curriculum, instruction, schedule and staffing, but all employees are members of unions. The L.A. Unified board recently denied the group’s application to open two charter schools, a middle school for the coming school year and a high school for the 2017-18 school year, but that decision was overturned on appeal by the Los Angeles County Board of Education.
The LA Fund managed a range of in-school programs throughout Los Angeles County, including Girls Build LA, an empowerment program that has reached more than 7,000 girls; The Intern Project, a paid internship program for high school students at companies like SpaceX and Participant Media; #ArtsMatter, an advocacy program that integrates arts and creativity into core curriculum; andGrants HQ, which offers personalized training and support to thousands of educators seeking additional classroom resources.
Melvin said the new LA Promise Fund intends to spend the next three months identifying specific goals, strategies for implementing them and fundraising. Each of the merging organizations has an annual budget of $3 million.
“Over the past several years, LA’s Promise and the LA Fund have both compiled impressive track records with programs that empower students both inside and outside the classroom,” Megan Chernin, who serves on the boards of both merging organizations, said in a statement. “The new enterprise formed by the combination of these two extraordinary organizations will be in a unique position to seed great programs that can then be developed and rolled out across the county.”
Without specifically citing the new organization, L.A. unified Superintendent Michelle King said in a statement, “The District is always open to new strategies for improving our schools, and we look forward to discussions that will help us better serve our students.”