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Funders investing in Charlotte schools

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A group of seven foundations have pledged a total of $40.5 million to a $55 million effort to transform Charlotte’s lowest-performing schools.

Organized by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Investment Study Group, the five-year plan aims to provide additional services and educational enhancements to students in the West Charlotte Corridor, which includes West Charlotte High School, and its feeder middle and elementary schools.

West Charlotte High has a graduation rate of 51 percent, the lowest in the school system.

Dubbed Project Leadership and Investment For Transformation, or Project L.I.F.T., the effort was begun a group of philanthropists and community leaders who organized the study group and held a series of five community forums that drew more than 800 local participants last fall.

The group also examined other models of philanthropic involvement in public education and heard from national education experts, while working with local school officials to discuss which approaches could work locally.

“With the dollars that are being provided, we will put into practice measures that will work,” Peter Gorman, superintendent of the school system, says in a statement. “This group has looked at data with a practical mindset to find the things we can do that have produced results in communities across the country.”

Project L.I.F.T. will focus on improving the quality of teaching and school leadership, could involve extended school days and pre-K programs, will provide access to technology and will pursue policy changes to give school administrators more freedom.

“While Project L.I.F.T. will be something truly innovative and special that makes the most sense for our community, its outcomes will serve to address what is clearly a broader, national issue,” Richard “Stick” Williams, president of the Duke Energy Foundation and co-chair of the study group, says in a statement.

To date, the following foundations have pledged funds, which will be held at Foundation for the Carolinas:

  • Belk Foundation – $1 million
  • Foundation for the Carolinas – $2 million
  • Wells Fargo Foundation – $2.5 million
  • Duke Energy Foundation $5 million
  • Bank of America Charitable Foundation – $10 million
  • C.D. Spangler Foundation – $10 million
  • The Leon Levine Foundation – $10 million

Pledges by the foundation will be paid only when the $55 million is raised, and efforts are underway to secure pledges from other foundations and philanthropists.

Project L.I.F.T. is in the process of finding an executive director and aims to put some changes in time into effect for the coming school year.

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