The donor community can help by thinking about how to streamline their communication and collaborate on strategies to support community institutions, like school districts, that are under incredible pressure to quickly address this unprecedented situation.
Founding year: 1995
Revenue: $6.18 million (2018)
Primary funding source(s): The vast majority of funding comes from private donors
Description: The Alliance for Education’s programmatic mission is to close the opportunity gaps that exist between student groups. Its programs focus on funding and implementing strategies proven to support best practices, increase equity and close opportunity gaps. Since its founding, it has mobilized more than $155 million to support excellence in Seattle Public Schools.
On March 12th we talked to Lisa Chick, president and CEO of the Alliance for Education in Seattle, about how the organization is coping with COVID-19. Lisa touched on a variety of topics, including the critical role of the area schools, the involvement of the philanthropic community, and racism towards people of Asian descent.
With many companies sending workers home, a lot of folks are asking why kids are still in school. The district really found itself in a catch-22 with this decision. Ultimately, they decided to close given the pandemic status of the outbreak, and the impossibility of protecting schools and students from cross-infecting. But there are a different set of risks that come with closing schools. When schools are closed, some kids are without childcare because their parents have to work, and many depend on school breakfast and school lunch for their daily caloric intake. We’re working with our community partners now to see how we can help address those issues.
All the philanthropy folks that I talk to are super passionate about stepping up to respond. The philanthropic community in Seattle has been incredible in their response to the coronavirus, and I’m grateful the Alliance has been able to play a role in coordinating support for our district. We play an ongoing role in convening the philanthropic community on behalf of Seattle Public Schools, and we were able to pull together a call early on in the crisis with the superintendent and multiple local philanthropists. A key challenge is how to provide the right supports efficiently and effectively, but not overwhelm the district with multiple communications and inputs. The donor community can help by thinking about how to streamline their communication and collaborate on strategies to support community institutions, like school districts, that are under incredible pressure to quickly address this unprecedented situation.
There’s been a lot of overt racism to people of Asian descent. A specific example of this in Seattle has been a huge decrease in people shopping and eating in the International District [a predominantly Asian business district]. There have also been multiple reports of overt racism to people of Asian descent. Our mayor, superintendent, and other community leaders have spoken up early and often in response to racist behavior related to this crisis, and I hope that will make a difference. We all have a role to play in not letting that kind of behavior pass, and being sure to stand up on behalf of individuals and institutions experiencing racism at this time and always.
All communities should be thinking about what’s ahead of them in this pandemic, and who their contacts are that could inform their efforts so they can get started on things now. A suggestion that recently came up was that the school district develop a playbook for other cities as they go through this— how we dealt with it and lessons learned—so other districts can benefit. That could be an incredible tool. I would urge other communities to begin thinking now about how the most vulnerable in our community will be impacted. It could make a big difference to figure out a coordinated response across sectors, as well as clear lines of communication and engagement ahead of the curve of the crisis.