This Ed Funder Works Under the Radar, Moving Millions to Charter and Parochial Schools

The Louis Calder Foundation may not have the name recognition or the resources of the Gates, Dell, and Walton foundations, but this funder is a great friend to charter and parochial schools, especially those which emphasize a traditional liberal arts curriculum. Calder recently announced the winners of its 2014 grants, which include a range of parochial and charter schools concentrated mainly in the Northeast.

Calder grants largely fund school and grade-level expansion, as well as curriculum development, which the funder—sees as essential to education reform. A belief in a solid liberal arts education is at the heart of Calder's education funding agenda.

Calder has a sizeable endowment, which stood at $152 million at the end of 2012, and it gives away around $7 million a year. So while it's not one of the big boys in the ed space, we're still talking about some serious money. Its grantmaking operation is super-lean, presided over by Peter Calder, a grandson of Louis Calder, and administered by just two staff. 

Louis Calder was a paper and pulp magnate who died in 1963. He left $36 million to his foundation, which since then has given away $208 million. Calder didn't establish his foundation to focus on education per se, much less to fund an alternative to existing public schools. But that's where things have gone, and the money just keeps coming.

The foundation's charter school grants tend to fall in the $50,000 to $100,000 range, which can mean a lot for individual schools, with just a few reaching upwards of $200,000, mainly to ed organizations. Although Calder doesn't explicitly say that it awards grants to specific states, a look at its grant lists suggests that it does seem to favor the East Coast, and that's true of its latest round of grants. 

The recent recipients of grants from the Calder Foundation include:

  • Cristo Rey Brooklyn High School, a Catholic High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., which received $50,000 for turnaround efforts. Cristo Rey is a past recipient of Calder Foundation funding.
  • Excel Academy Charter School in Chelsea, MA. This charter school outside Boston received $100,000 for grade-level and new school expansion. This is Excel Academy's second consecutive annual grant from Calder.
  • New Schools for New Orleans, which received $100,000 toward implementation of the New Orleans school reform model. New Schools for New Orleans is a network of charter schools striving to revive and reform public education in New Orleans in the years after Hurricane Katrina. Calder has funded NSNO for the past four years.
  • Jumoke Academy Charter Schools in Hartford, CT, which received $50,000 for new school expansion and capacity building of its charter management organization. Jumoke received Calder funding in 2013 and 2012, as well.
  • Public Preparatory Network in New York City, which received a total of $200,000 for two initiatives: $100,000 for a curriculum project and $100,000 for start-up support of a boys preparatory school. Public Preparatory Network's goals include creating single-sex public preparatory charter schools in NYC. The network presently operates three girls preparatory schools serving grades K-8. Public Preparatory is a new recipient of Calder Foundation funding.
  • Saint Aloysius School in New York City. This Harlem-based Jesuit school received $50,000 for program support. St. Aloysius is a past recipient of Calder funding, awarded grants in 2011 and 2012.
  • STRIVE Preparatory Schools in Denver, Colo. This charter network was awarded $100,000 for the initital year of the STRIVE Prep - Southwest Elementary. STRIVE is a first-year recipient of Calder funding.
  • TEAM Charter Schools in Newark, N.J. Calder's $200,000 first-time grant to this charter network will support network and grade-level growth at schools in Camden and Newark.
  • Uncommon Schools in New York City, which received $100,000 for grade-level expansion at the North Star Academy charter schools.