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Bloomberg Pledges $375 Million in College- and Workforce-Readiness Initiatives

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Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced that his philanthropy will devote $375 million over the next five years to initiatives designed to better prepare students for work or college.

At the New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum on Thursday, Bloomberg announced a variety of projects to improve K-12 education. The lion's share focused on college- and career-readiness.

It's a "false choice," Bloomberg said, to argue that students need to be ready for work or four-year college.

"The truth is, this is not an either/or situation," he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. "We need to do both: Put more focus on college and careers, so that students have a real choice," but also, help more low-income students attend "good colleges" so they can boost their chances of having good options.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is already working on one project designed to address this issue, the American Talent Initiative. Launched in late 2016, it formed a coalition of elite colleges and universities that are working to increase their enrollments of low-income, high-achieving students. Membership began at 30, but now exceeds 100.

The philanthropy is also working on CollegePoint, which uses phone counseling, texting, email, and video chat to provide support for low-income, high-achieving students as they plan and apply to college. He said that more than 40,000 students have participated in that program. 

Bloomberg Philanthropies will also be supporting districts, cities, and states that are partnering with business to create opportunities for students. Bloomberg cited CareerWise in Colorado, Youth Force in New Orleans, and Career Pathways in Delaware as examples of places that have linked forces with employers to create apprenticeships and chances for students to experience the world of work, and build on those experiences as they progress toward associate or bachelor's degrees.

Bloomberg included other priorities in his philanthropy's planned spending, but didn't outline where he would put them into action.

Among the things he mentioned: creating more charter schools, raising teacher salaries in exchange for greater accountability, giving principals more freedom to hire and train their staffs, and stepping up efforts to ensure that each classroom has a "skilled and effective" teacher. He also noted that it's important for schools to be able to "move out" of their classrooms teachers who don't improve sufficiently despite good mentoring and professional development.


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