Traditionally, in the United States, public education has been shaped by tax dollars and the communities that pay them. In recent decades, however, that has changed. New theories of education and influential universities have started to dominate the conversation about educational theories. This led many communities to question the way their public schools were developing. Calls for public-private partnerships and more school choice for parents were just one sign that a change might be needed.
More recently, big philanthropy is promising to remake the landscape around public schooling in the U.S. Eli and Edythe Broad are big names in the world of philanthropy. The couple are also graduates of public schools in the Detroit, Michigan area. After building Sun Life into a successful insurance company, they later sold the business to AIG. Since then, they’ve devoted their time and attention to the worlds of art and charity. In 20 years of full-time philanthropy, they’ve accomplished a great deal.
The Broad Foundation is not just interested in adding more books, desks and technology to schools. Instead, the Broads want to look at the way schools are administered. To that end, they’ve given $100 million to the Yale School of Management. This money will be used to train leaders for K-12 public education. In addition to this gift, the Broad Center currently trains leaders for education. The Broads also give money to educational institutions in the Los Angeles area.
Interestingly, another famous family in educational philanthropy emerged from Michigan. Betsy DeVos is famously Secretary of Education under Donald Trump. Over the years, she and her husband have helped lead the charge for education reform in their home state. They were some of the first advocates for charter schools in America. Though Dick DeVos graduated from a public school himself, he felt the schools had deteriorated by the time he had a family of his own. He and his wife also felt motivated to improve the system for families who couldn’t afford a private education.
Other political figures who have made big donations to educational institutions include Michael Bloomberg. A current presidential candidate for 2020, Bloomberg gave $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. This is the largest single gift to an educational institution in history.