OVERVIEW: The Bezos Family Foundation is solely dedicated to enriching education for students—starting before formal education begins, continuing through K-12 education, and positioning students for college success and enriched lives. Its Excellence in K-12 Education focus is directed at "systematic improvements" to close the achievement gap, and tends to emphasize STEM.
IP TAKE: The parents of tech billionaire Jeff Bezos have quietly built a thoughtful and substantial foundation that supports U.S. education on a structural level. But it doesn't accept unsolicited proposals or unsolicited inquiries.
PROFILE: The Bezos Family Foundation is the philanthropic project of Jackie and Miguel (Mike) Bezos—all bankrolled with shares of their Amazon stock. The foundation’s annual grantmaking has been growing lately, hitting more than $17 million in a recent year, with all of it devoted to improving U.S. public education.
One avenue of Bezos Family Foundation support is its focus on Excellence in K-12 Education. The foundation acknowledges on its website that there are no easy answers to solving current systemic K-12 deficiencies, but it is focused on creating a consistency of experience—across geography, socio-economics, and racial barriers—so that any student has equal opportunity.
And what defines that "equal opportunity?" The Bezos Family Foundation describes the ideal K-12 education experience as one that is transformative, and this ideal is its goal. Transformative for them means excellence in the educational content provided to students (especially STEM education), quality environments in which to learn, civic engagement, exposure to a global perspective, and confident social and personal growth.
It’s a lot to ask, but it’s a thoughtful and thorough ask. The foundation’s K-12 grantees, which it describes as its “partners,” address the quest for this transformation in a variety of ways. Recent and long-term partners have worked on areas that included student college readiness, literacy programs, and research and programs related to teacher training, effectiveness, and leadership. Longer-term current and former K-12 grantees, meanwhile, have included robotics teams for low-income schools, expansion of Teach for America, “the pursuit of effective and innovative approaches to pre-K -12 education in Washington State," and leadership programs in public schools (particularly notable since it demonstrates the foundation's commitment to transform public education any way possible).
In addition to its grantmaking, the Bezos Foundation also has a few K-12-related programs of its own, namely the Bezos Scholars Program, a leadership-oriented partnership with the Aspen Institute; the Aspen Challenge and Students Rebuild, both of which seek greater student engagement in thinking about and working to adress global challenges; and Vroom, which is directed at helping parents view "everyday moments" as "brain building" opportunities for children age 0-5.
The Bezos Family Foundation’s grantees work throughout the country, with a noted emphasis in Washington (Bezos’ home state). But without direct access to the Bezos clan or its small group of staff, this funding source is a difficult one to crack. The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals or inquiries.
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