Meet San Fran's Boldest New Education Funder

Technology in Silicon Valley is ubiquitous. But there’s one place that’s struggled to keep up — the nation’s schools. Last October, the Silicon Schools Fund launched a $25 million fund designed to create new blended-learning schools in the Bay Area and solve that problem. Now it appears SSF is ready to make that happen.

In February, the Bay Area’s (See Bay Area Grants) newest education funder announced their first round of grants, which totaled $1.7 million. The two grants went to a couple of Bay Area charter networks — Summit and Alpha public schools — and the support is designed to establish new blended-learning schools within those organizations. Summit received the lion’s share of the grants at $1.4 million, and that organization will help open two new schools.

Students at Summit’s new schools will have more control over their learning, which will be aided by technology, and this will free up educators to provide more individualized instruction. Alpha Public Schools is using their grant to expand and enhance blended-learning in one of their existing schools.

"Both Summit and Alpha are doing remarkable work to create a highly personalized learning experience for students through the combination of great teaching and technology,” SSF’s CEO Brian Greenberg said in a statement. “We are excited to see their innovation continue to evolve as they grow."

For fundraisers, SSF has a bold goal, and the nonprofit will likely develop into an interesting new funder in the Bay Area.

Over the next five years, they’re hoping to open up to 25 new blended learning schools in the region, and they’re already in the process of looking for the next round of grantees. SSF said grants will average about $700,000, and they will go to school districts and nonprofits that want to start new schools or redevelop schools with a blended-learning model.

So far, SSF has also raised about half of their $25 million goal, and they’re also receiving interest from some well-connected funders in the charter space. John Fisher, who joined the board of SSF, is also involved with the Charter School Growth Fund (See Charter School Growth Fund: Grants for Charter Schools) and the KIPP Foundation, two prominent charter funding organizations. So SSF certainly has some clout for a newly launched organization, and it will certainly be interesting to see how successful these new schools are after receiving funding.