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Will Philanthropists Gamble on Detroit's Schools?

In the current issue of FORTUNE Magazine, I profile philanthropist Carol Goss. Here's an excerpt:

Can a cause seem so lost that not even many philanthropists feel charitable toward it? Detroit's schools have been that kind of hard case. In recent years public schools in such cities as New York, Chicago, and New Orleans have enjoyed major infusions of cash from charities like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But that never happened in Detroit, whose school system is so far gone that barely 3% of its fourth-graders meet national math standards. "Between the destruction of the auto and manufacturing industries, massive blight, and political problems, the philanthropic view is that there's been no basement to build on in Detroit," says Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank.

If Detroit schools have a last best friend, it's Carol Goss. The charity she heads, Detroit's Skillman Foundation, a $457 million fund based on the fortune of 3M adhesives pioneer Robert Skillman and his wife, Rose, devotes the majority of its giving to one cause: the children of Detroit. And Goss, 62, realized they were suffering because of infighting among the grownups: teachers resistant to change, politicians battling over conventional vs. charter schools, parents protesting the closing of failed programs. The dysfunction became so bad that a few years ago Detroit refused a rare offer from a philanthropist to donate $200 million to build charter schools across the city.

Read the full story here.

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  • 1

    One of the ugly truths about the legacy of failure with DPS is the impotency of the role of the non-profits...These forces have been as lethal and destructive as the BOE , Parents, Unions ...

    The American Enterprise Inst is not worthy of every rendering any opinon about the interests of Black folks in any area...This group has always had contempt for anything Black having them in your profile is a joke Steven...

    At some point in the this long struggle with regard to DPS people like Goss have to have the integrity and courage to step away....

  • 2

    No good deed goes unpunished.

  • 3

    Look at what they have done to King!

    No good deed at all.

    Incompetent architecture at it's best.

    No program written and approved.

    No design based upon a program.

    Design in one week.

    Major, important program requirements not even discussed or included.

    You'd have to be totally insane to think that great things are happening.

    And the funding agencies have stepped up, but to see what is happening is a total heartbreak.

    Where is the mature and integrous architectural guidance? No where to be found.


  • 4

    But it is easily found in what the Thompson/Ross efforts have accomplished.

    Architect Francis Recendes has shown us brilliance.


  • 5

    that there's been no basement to build on in Detroit," says Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank.

    Clearly, the conservatives don't have a grip on it.

    The foundation is there in more than one way.


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