February 13, 2008–Democratic and Republican presidential contenders have very different ideas about how to fix education in the United States. With the primary season still underway, Catalyst examined the education platforms of the two major candidates still in the running from each party.
David Kirp is an outspoken critic of policies—like those in Illinois—that promote quantity over quality in preschool education. Kirp was in Chicago recently to discuss his engaging new book “The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics” at a conference on early childhood education hosted by the Erikson Institute. He spoke with Consulting Editor Cindy Richards about why Chicago is, as he calls it, “the epicenter of the pre-k universe.”
With three-quarters of the money going into challenge grants requiring a 2-for-1 local match—hence, the name Annenberg Challenge—the philanthropist’s largesse generated more than $1 billion for reform programs. Today, Annenberg programs are working in nearly 2,700 schools in 300 school districts.
On Feb. 4, the challenge announced a “Breakthrough School Initiative” to give $113,000 to each of 18 schools that have been part of Annenberg-funded networks. These schools are “making greater progress toward whole-school change than others,” the Challenge explained. Each school is to use some of its money to share its knowledge and expertise with other schools in its network and beyond.
Chicago got a chance to find out when Walter Annenberg, a former ambassador to Great Britain who made his money in publishing, topped off his long commitment to improving education with a $500 million grant aimed in large part at some of the country’s worst school systems. Announced in 1993, it was the biggest single private award ever made to K-12 schools in America.