America’s Promise Alliance joins President Obama, U.S. Education Secretary and CEOs at White House education roundtable

Grad Nation Community Impact Fund will raise $50 million to engage communities in dropout prevention

Jul 28, 2011

America’s Promise Alliance has launched a new philanthropic fund focused on solving the nation’s high school dropout crisis. The Grad Nation Community Impact Fund will provide grants to stimulate community engagement and investment to help transform the nation’s lowest-performing schools and surrounding communities.

The Grad Nation Fund is part of America’s Promise Alliance’s larger Grad Nation Campaign, a 10-year initiative to mobilize all Americans to end the dropout crisis and prepare young people for college and the 21st century workforce. The Grad Nation Fund will raise $50 million to support this effort. A total of $1.5 million in pledges have already been secured.

America’s Promise Alliance invites the nation’s leading corporations to focus their philanthropic giving on solving the dropout crisis by contributing directly to the Grad Nation Fund or aligning existing investments to the Grad Nation framework. Initial corporate commitments aligned with the Grad Nation framework already exceed $600 million.

This announcement was made at a reception following a White House Education Roundtable on July 18 that Alliance Chair Alma Powell and Founding Chair General Colin Powell participated in with President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and some of the nation’s most prominent business leaders. Participants discussed the link between education and the economy and the role the business community can play in helping transform schools and communities and create a more prepared workforce and sustainable economy.   

Grad Nation Community Impact Fund Information and Tools

“As a nation, we are falling behind in the global economy. Today’s roundtable is just the beginning of what we hope will be a longstanding dialogue between the business, nonprofit and policy communities about better education outcomes in this country,” said Alma J. Powell, chair, America’s Promise Alliance. “As a driver of innovation and excellence in this country, the business community is uniquely positioned to support our schools. They can both help ensure our students are armed with the most essential skills and our nation has the workforce we need in the 21st century. They can also help ensure our elected officials make education a top priority.”

The Grad Nation Community Impact Fund’s Advisory Board will include representatives from the education, business and nonprofit sectors. The fund’s co-chairs to- date include: Patricia Harrison, president and CEO, Corporation for Public Broadcasting; Kathleen A. Murphy, president of personal investing at Fidelity Investments; Mark Nieker, president and CEO, Pearson Foundation; Rodney (Rod) O. Martin, CEO, ING Insurance U.S.; Edward B. Rust, Jr., chairman and CEO, State Farm;  William (Bill) Shore, director of US community partnerships, GlaxoSmithKline and  Richard (Rick) Stephens, senior vice president, human resources and administration, The Boeing Company.  Additional co-chairs will be named in the coming months.

Financial commitments to the Fund will not be limited and investments already distributed that support the goals of the Grad Nation campaign can elect to be considered part of the Grad Nation Fund. An example of the type of effort the Grad Nation Fund seeks to support may be found in the $55 million Project L.I.F.T (Leadership and Investing for Transformation) program in Charlotte, North Carolina that was created to narrow the achievement gap and boost performance, especially graduation rates, in Charlotte’s public schools. To date, Project L.I.F.T has gathered $43 million in investments from Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Duke Energy Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, Leon Levine Foundation, and other partners. Leaders from participating organizations attended today’s White House roundtable to discuss this effort.

The first grants to communities from the Grad Nation Fund will be planning grants, to be awarded in the fall. Communities will need to include at least one of the lowest-performing schools and demonstrate a commitment to local action aligned with the goals of the Grad Nation Campaign. Communities must also demonstrate they have a multi-sector, collaborative leadership in place that includes partnerships with the business community and local school system.  Finally, Grad Nation Fund grantees must also commit to raising matching funds to promote local investment in this work and to ensure its sustainability.  

“The Grad Nation Community Impact Fund is a social venture fund that responds directly to the understanding that real change in education won’t happen unless we support local efforts and communities directly and engage all sectors in the solution,” said Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance. “We hope this fund will serve as a model of collaboration in philanthropy while providing seed capital to generate long-lasting transformation in our most struggling schools and communities.”

To further bolster the work of this fund and continue the dialogue initiated today at the White House, America’s Promise Alliance also announced plans to host regional business roundtables in as many as three cities over the next year. These regional roundtables will bring together local and national business leaders to examine how the business community can better support school transformation and greater student supports, especially for those schools identified as lowest performing. The regional meetings will also provide an opportunity for businesses to determine ways to collaborate with each other on this work. The first regional roundtable will take place in Durham, North Carolina later this year. The roundtables are sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, Ritz Carlton Company and State Farm. State Farm is also the presenting sponsor of the Grad Nation Campaign.

“GSK partners with America’s Promise Alliance because we believe in the educational merit of their programs and the importance of increasing high school graduation rates to ensure a competitive workforce,” said Deirdre Connelly, president North America Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline.  “The regional business roundtables will highlight successful educational partnerships between businesses and nonprofits, inspiring and guiding future collaborations.”

Today’s White House Business Roundtable and these future regional roundtables highlight one of the key reasons for engaging the business community in education: the high school dropout crisis and its direct impact on the nation’s economy. New research released today from the Alliance for Excellent Education and State Farm details how educational attainment influences an individual’s annual earnings and each state’s economy.  These new findings build on earlier research by the Alliance for Excellent Education which found that cutting the nation’s high school dropout rate in half would generate $7.6 billion in increased earnings in an average year and would likely result in $19 billion in increased home sales and $741 million more in auto sales. Together, the increased earnings, additional spending, and investment by new graduates would equate to 54,000 new jobs and $9.6 billion in economic growth for the nation. 

In total, an estimated 1.3 million students drop out each year – averaging 7,000 each school day or one every 26 seconds. Among minority students, the problem is even more severe with less than 50 percent of Native American and a little more than half of African American and Hispanic students completing high school on time. The number of high schools graduating 60 percent or less of students on time—often identified as “lowest performing” or “dropout factories” – in the country totaled 1,634 in 2009.

  • View photos from the event and reception that followed at the Hay-Adams Hotel.
  • Watch the video below of Alliance For Excellent Education President Gov. Bob Wise as he offers his takeaways from the meeting, including the increased role that business leaders will play in calling for education reform in the agendas of policymakers.