A week after two foundations announced $13 million in planned grants to the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program for city students, a third philanthropy yesterday said it will kick in $6 million over three years.
The Promise aid was part of a $10.2-million grant package The Heinz Endowments announced for the Pittsburgh Public Schools and some of the school district's community partners.
"Our strategies in funding education reform in the district are directed to achieving the ultimate goal, which is to create an educational system that allows all students to reach their full potential -- to graduate with an education that prepares them well for the next level of education or the world of work," Teresa Heinz, Endowments chairwoman, said in a statement.
"To the extent that innovative, community-led strategies such as the Promise also move us toward that goal, we are a strong supporter," she said.
The Buhl Foundation last week said it planned to give the Promise $3 million over 10 years, leaving open the possibility of an adjustment after five years. At the same time, the Pittsburgh Foundation said it planned to give the program $3 million immediately and, with the approval of its board, $2 million over the next four years and $5 million in the five years after that.
The Promise got off the ground last year with a $10 million gift and $90 million challenge grant from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Scholarship recipients must graduate from district high schools or city charter schools and meet certain academic, enrollment and other requirements.
To leverage the challenge grant, the Promise must raise $135 million within a decade, including $15 million by June 30. Gifts from the endowments and the other foundations help to meet the challenge.
In a statement, Saleem Ghubril, Promise executive director, called the Heinz Endowments gift "a huge vote of confidence" in the program.
"We are now almost halfway to our fundraising goal of $15 million for 2008-09. ... I'm very hopeful that other organizations, including local businesses, will follow this bold endorsement of the Promise by one of our region's biggest grant-making organizations," Mr. Ghubril said.
The school district is "very grateful that The Heinz Endowments has provided such magnificent support," spokeswoman Pat Kennedy said.
The grant package includes:
• $2 million for the Fund for Excellence, supporting various district improvement initiatives, including new curricula and design of new schools, and $100,000 to train employees of the district's early-childhood program.
• $500,000 for the district's Culturally Responsive Arts Education Program, designed to help children come to a better appreciation of their heritage and provide instruction that is sensitive to cultural differences.
• $500,000 to the University of Pittsburgh for a computing initiative at the new school district-university partnership school in the Hill District. Also, Pitt will receive $360,000 for a school readiness program for Hill District students.
• $300,000 to the Hill House Association to provide social services to Hill District families, so children perform better in school.
• $225,000 to the Downtown education group A+ Schools.
Carey Harris, executive director, said the money will be used for initiatives that promote excellent teaching, quality district leadership and involvement of families and the community in district affairs. She said A+ Schools is planning a series of reports on improving instruction in city schools.
• $200,000 to the Beginning with Books Center for Early Literacy in East Liberty. The group will provide literacy mentors to about 200 students in prekindergarten through third grade and establish "Raising Readers" parent clubs at 10 city schools.
"Many of the families we work with have absolutely no books in their home," said Keith Kondrich, the center's executive director.
He said the clubs will show parents how to choose a quality children's book, how to use the library and how to make reading "compete" with television and video games at home. The program, lasting six to eight weeks, also will give participants books for home libraries.
The Heinz Endowments said it has provided $20 million for school district improvement initiatives since 2006, including $6 million for the Fund for Excellence. The fund is a joint effort of local foundations.
Joe Smydo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548.