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Philanthropist Donates Millions to Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Fresno and Louisville

  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District recently received a surprise $20 million donation, which will help the 35,000-student school district fund student travel for college visits and learning, provide professional development for staff, and fund athletic equipment, musical instruments, and science labs. The financial gift, the largest in the district’s history, is from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.  

    Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland school district, announced the donation during a ceremony held at East Tech High School and said the district was very grateful for the incredible gift. 

    “It will give our scholars exposure to travel and other experiences that will broaden their world view and make their education more meaningful,” said Gordon. “We also will be able to invest more deeply in professional development for staff and make improvements in facilities and equipment.” 

    Cleveland is not the only urban school district to benefit from Scott’s philanthropy. Detroit Public Schools Community District, California’s Fresno Unified School District, and Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Ky., each received $20 million, while Chicago Public Schools was given $25 million.  

    The funds provided to the districts are not tied to any specific purpose and can be used in any way the district sees fit.

    For the Detroit school system, Michigan’s largest school system with 53,406 students, the donation comes at a critical time. District officials will use the money to hire more academic interventionists working one-on-one and in small groups with students. Funds will also be used to raise student achievement by implementing its literacy and math intervention model at scale, specifically targeting lower grade levels. “We will ensure the funds are used to improve the performance of our students and address other challenges that impact the outcomes of our students,” said Detroit Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

    The $20 million donation to Jefferson County Public Schools will be used to fund a new initiative called E3: Engagement, Environment, and Experiences to help narrow the gap in supplemental funding for schools in the district’s “choice zone” — primarily high-poverty schools in West Louisville. “This is a game-changing donation to our community,” said Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio. The district also plans to use the donation to help fund uniforms, musical instruments, and college visits.  

    Fresno Unified School District is the first school district in California to receive a donation from Scott. According to the Fresno Bee, funds will be used for the district’s new Foundation for Fresno Unified Schools. Over the next several months, the foundation will decide how to use the money but have an idea in mind — pay for college scholarships for high school seniors.  

    Chicago Public Schools received a $25 million donation from Scott. According to Chalkbeat Chicago, the nation’s third largest school district will use the donation to improve services for students with disabilities, strengthen career and technical education, and make school admissions more fair. 

    Scott recently unveiled a website, Yield Giving, which lists the 1,600 organizations she has given donations to totaling $14,000,000,000. Organizations are evaluated based on their potential for sustained positive impact, including their finances, history, measurement and evidence of outcomes, and experienced leadership representative of the community served. The organizations are then notified that they have been selected to receive a donation for use however they choose.