Funding education innovators

You’ve got a great idea for a new kind of school or a teacher recruitment program. How do you get the start-up money? In “Fueling the Engine,” in Education Next, Rick Hess writes about education innovators and the philanthropists that fund them.  It’s an excerpt from his new book Education UnboundThe Promise and Practice of Greenfield Schooling.

“Greenfield is a term of art typically used by investors, engineers, or builders to refer to an area where there are unobstructed, wide-open opportunities to invent or build,” Hess writes. Or as, Mao said: “Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend.”

The challenge for reformers is to recognize that enabling such providers is not just a matter of promoting “school choice,” but also of freeing up the sector to a wealth of different approaches and cultivating conditions in which problem solvers can succeed and grow. . .  funding is the fuel required for innovators to thrive.

The U.S. Education Department wants to fund innovation too, Hess notes.

Over $650 million in (federal i3) funds will be awarded, and a coalition of foundations announced last week that it will offer up to half a billion dollars to match the federal grants.

. . . Remember, the i3 investment probably amounts to a third or more of school reform investment in the U.S. this year, and the follow-up $500 million will increase its impact even more. This could be a substantial boon to innovation and a spur for new providers to take evaluation and scale far more seriously, or it could result in cementing the status of popular outfits that know how to write grants, land influential consultants, and afford high-priced evaluation.

Ed Week has more on the foundations’ partnership with the feds.

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