Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education


OVERVIEW: The Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation (not to be confused with the Charles Schwab Corporate Foundation) looks to charter schools and charter networks for their potential to transform the educational landscape of California and the country overall. This funder's education giving is funneled through its K-12 Education program and include school choice, technology, and research on innovations in education. Its main focus is on the Golden State, but organizations outside of California are still eligible for funding.

IP TAKE: You would expect a foundation started by an investor to be interested in innovative organizations and projects. The foundation does not accept unsolicited applications or even letters or inquiry, but if you're thinking about new and different approaches to education, this may be the funder for you. 

PROFILE: Investing giant Charles Schwab and his wife, Helen, established the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation in 1987. The foundation is headquartered in San Francisco, and is separate from the Charles Schwab Corporation and its corporate foundation. K-12 education funding is, unsurprisingly, channeled through Schwab's K-12 Education program. 

The Schwab Foundation has surveyed the educational landscape of California, where most of its grantmaking is concentrated, and concluded that the status quo has failed too many of the state's young people: it doesn't prepare them for college and careers, has not adapted to changing times, provides too few education choices for low-income families, and fails to retain enough talented teachers. The Schwab Foundation concentrates the bulk of its grantmaking in California, but organizations outside the state can still receive grant funding.

Like many funders that have similar critiques of traditional public education, the Schwab Foundation looks to "quality public charter schools and programs" and other education reform efforts as a means of making sure “that every child has access to an effective teacher and a robust learning environment.”

The principles that guide the Schwab Foundation's education philanthropy are consistent with the charter school movement's philosophy. Those principles include “autonomy and accountability” on the part of the schools themselves, an array of educational alternatives to the traditional public school, the presence of “effective teachers” (whom it identifies as “the most critical factor in a child’s education”), the belief that technology has the potential to transform student learning, and the importance of new ideas and advocacy for innovation.

On that last point, Schwab states a particular focus on organizations interested in promoting teacher effectiveness, educational technology, and “an abundance of practical ideas, proof points and advocacy for conditions” that will promote positive change in the education arena. So in addition to charter schools and networks, researchers and advocacy organizations may find an enthusiastic reception from this funder.

On the direct service side, the foundation has been a supporter of Teach for America, the New Teacher Project, and the KIPP Foundation.

In the area of advocacy and ideas, recipients of Schwab Foundation funding have included the Ohio-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute as well as Foundation for Excellence in Education, a prominent charter school advocate founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

In terms of its overall philanthropic principles, the Schwab Foundation states that it prefers “organizations characterized by strong leadership, a compelling track record and future potential.” It does not have a grants database, but does provide a list of the organizations it supports.

Unfortunately for first-time grantseekers, although the foundation looks for opportunities to collaborate with other organizations, its website states that it does not accept unsolicited applications, proposals, or letters of inquiry.


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