Broad Foundation Suspends Public School Prize, Awards Charter School

New Orleans Recovery District class graduates
Daniel Erath, The Times-Picayune archive

The Broad Foundation, disappointed with the lack of progress in urban school districts, has suspended its $1 million scholarship prize. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation said “sluggish academic results from the largest urban school districts in the country” caused the foundation to put the program on hold.

Foundation President Bruce Reed told the Los Angeles Times, “The rise of a new definition of public school systems, coupled with more rigorous standards and higher expectations for our public schools, convinced us that now is the right time to take a break and evaluate The Broad Prize to ensure it fulfills its original mission: to catalyze dramatic improvement in America’s public schools.”

The Foundation noted that charter organizations are challenging traditional school districts in their drive for success, naming as one example New Orleans’s Recovery School District, originated after Hurricane Katrina.

The foundation stated that another prize that is awarded annually to a charter school organization will remain in place.

Eli Broad has supported candidates for public office who favor school reform, running against candidates sympathetic to the teachers’ unions. He has donated a great deal of money to help charter schools, which are largely non-union.

Union leaders, desperate to protect the public school system, fiercely criticize Broad. Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, snapped, “The further he and his foundation stay away from public education, the better. Eli Broad’s track record on public education has been shameful.” Pechthalt mentioned Broad’s opposition to Proposition 30, a temporary tax increase that kept the state from cutting funds for state school systems.

The Broad Prize was awarded to Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia and Orange County Public Schools in Florida. Long Beach Unified won the prize in 2003 and Garden Grove Unified won it in 2004.

The prize is based on standardized test scores, graduation rates, and the success in narrowing the difference in results between white and Asian students and low-income black and Latino students.

Eli Broad sponsors the Broad Superintendents Academy and the Broad Residency in Urban Education; the Broad Superintendents Academy trains “senior executives from business, nonprofit, military, government and education backgrounds to lead urban public school systems.” The Broad Residency program positions education reformers in school districts and charter management organizations (CMOs).