Brown to fully fund $10 million endowment for Providence Public Schools

The University Corporation has designated $8.1 million to fulfill its 2007 commitment to establish a $10 million endowment to support the Providence Public School District, President Christina Paxson P’19 wrote in a press release and community-wide email Wednesday. 

Paxson wrote that although “the original goal” was to fully fund the endowment through donations, only approximately $1.9 million was raised as of June 2020. She added that because the University “recognizes and appreciates the importance of completing” their commitment to the Fund, the Corporation has authorized use of unrestricted funds to fulfill the commitment and fund the shortfall.

Fully funded, the $10 million endowment will provide around $400,000 to $500,000 each year to support the needs of students in the PPSD system.

The Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence was established in 2007 as a measure to recognize the University’s historic ties to slavery, following a recommendation from the 2006 report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. The Fund was meant to formalize the University’s commitment to improve the education quality for K-12 students in the Providence area.

Since then, the University has awarded grants from the Fund to help improve school property and curricula as well as college scholarships to graduating students. The University has spent more than $800,000 annually on direct financial support for PPSD in recent years. During the COVID-19 crisis, the University also used the Fund to deliver internet access to 900 students as PPSD transitioned to remote instruction.

Paxson wrote in the community-wide email that the donation continues the University’s commitment announced last year to support PPSD in light of alarming conditions described in a report last summer. The report resulted in a state takeover of Providence public schools, formalized in November. 

The University has been criticized by groups, including Students for Education Equity, for not doing enough for the local community, and specifically for Providence’s struggling public schools.

Paxson added in the press release that the Fund will “enable continuous improvement in teaching and learning in Providence, and play an important part in promoting academic excellence and student success for generations to come.”

Of the funds paid out from the endowment each year, the University has also immediately committed approximately $150,000 to improve the Hope High School Library and Media Center. The project will begin this summer and will involve staff and students from Hope High School as well as University Library staff to provide “a 21st century learning environment for students.”

Beyond direct support of PPSD from the Fund, Paxson noted additional University measures to support teaching, research and outreach efforts to improve the school system. She wrote that Master of Arts in Teaching students will work to “develop culturally responsive teaching practices that address educational inequities and the needs of multilingual learners” during yearlong residencies. The University has also expanded financial aid for MAT students, and will provide loan forgiveness to 10 graduate students who make a three-year commitment to serve in urban schools in Providence and the Rhode Island urban core each year in the MAT and Urban Education Policy programs. Paxson also noted partnerships with specific local schools and the expansion of Providence students’ access to Brown Summer High School, Brown’s summer enrichment program which was offered online this year. Further, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, in partnership with Results for America, established the EdResearch for Recovery Project, an initiative to offer research-based advice to educators during COVID-19.

The Fund has been overseen by an ad hoc committee of the Corporation. Paxson stated that in order to “ensure continued alignment with district priorities,” a new committee will be formed to oversee the funds and the University’s relationship with PPSD.

The Public Education Committee will meet at least twice over the course of each academic year and will help provide guidance for K-12 initiatives and ensure that the University is allocating its resources optimally.

The Committee will include members of the Brown community as well as residents of the greater Providence community. Paxson will act as chair of the committee, which will also include faculty, students and current or emeritus members of the Corporation. 

The vice president for institutional equity and diversity, the director of the Annenberg Institute, the chair of the Rhode Island Department of Education, the director of the Swearer Center for Public Service and the education coordinator of the Annenberg Institute will all serve as ex-officio members of the Brown community. The superintendent of PPSD and the mayor of the City of Providence will also serve as ex-officio, non-voting members of the Committee.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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