By Sherece West

Despite the notion that fixing the nation’s public schools may require an “act of superman,” a coming together of not just educators, education officials, policymakers, parents and students, but education grantmakers as well, might actually be the “force of nature” needed to turn around our failing schools.

A few months ago, I attended the largest gathering of education funders for a conference that focused on “fulfilling the promise of excellence and equity.” I hope that participants of the Grantmakers for Education conference wrestled with some startling findings from a new study. Every year, grantmakers give billions of dollars in grants for education. But only a few of them provide funding to address the specific needs of all students, especially those most in need – lower-income and other underserved students – and an even smaller number supports efforts to solve our education crisis, according to a report recently released by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) (, a watchdog group based in D.C.

In “Confronting Systemic Inequity in Education: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy,” Kevin Welner and Amy Farley examine the system-wide issues that feed the cycle of unequal educational access and opportunities faced by students from marginalized communities. Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Farley argue that education reform cannot take place without breaking this cycle, and this requires change in the way philanthropy directs its resources.

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