The Committee’s Public Education Project Receives $215,000 Grant From The Morrison & Foerster Foundation

WASHINGTON, DC - The Public Education Project of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs has received a two-year grant totaling $215,000 from The Morrison & Foerster Foundation. The grant will allow the Committee to expand its Parent Engagement and Academic Enrichment Program (Program) over the next two years.

The Program will address the critical need to increase parental involvement in the education of public school children in the most disadvantaged DC communities and will help to increase academic enrichment opportunities for students in DC Title I schools.

“We are very grateful to The Morrison & Foerster Foundation for this generous gift,” said Jennifer Levy, Co-Chair of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee and a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. “Ensuring equal opportunity to an education has been a core part of our mission since the Committee was founded in 1968. This grant will help us continue this important work.”

“Working and low-income parents often face barriers to participating in their children’s school,” said Jonathan M. Smith, the Committee’s executive director. “Through this grant, we will work with parents and schools to increase access to meaningful parental participation and to give all parents a voice in the educational success of their children.”

The Committee’s Public Education Project Director Kent Withycombe emphasized, “studies show that increased parent engagement, and the academic enrichment that they encourage, are key ingredients to the success of students, schools and entire school systems. This remarkable grant will allow us to expand dramatically our work empowering parents of students in Title I schools to influence the academic life of their schools, and to bring new and exciting enrichment opportunities to their students that will help bridge the gap in external resources between schools in low-income neighborhoods and those in wealthier neighborhoods.”

By partnering with DC area law firms, corporate volunteers, and other community resources, the Program will help to establish and expand participation in parent-teacher organizations (PTOs), and provide guidance related to fundraising for academic enrichment opportunities to benefit an estimated 8,000-9,000 at-risk, low-income DC public school students. 

The Program rolled out a successful pilot in the 2015-2016 school year. For example, with the guidance of the Program, the PTO of a school through a “Coding Festival” family event successfully increased their parent volunteer commitments and raised their own funds to obtain matching funds from the Committee. The combined funding paid for an “i-Ready” online math program that allowed teachers and parents to monitor and assist students in grades K-5 with their math skills more often, and that dramatically increased the percentage of students performing at grade level from 27% at the start of the year to 72% by year-end, with 65% of students making at least one year’s growth during the year.

Media Contact:
Jonathan Smith, Executive Director
(202) 319-1000

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