MacKenzie Scott donates to New Orleans schools, nonprofits | Education

New Orleans charter organizations and education-focused nonprofits received more than $28 million in the latest round of donations from maverick philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Scott recently wrote on her website Yield Giving that her donations have yielded more than $14 billion in funding for about 1,600 nonprofits since 2019.

She also announced that she plans to introduce an “open-call process” that allows nonprofits seeking donations from her to send information to her for evaluation. Until now, Scott and her team secretly contacted organizations that they were interested in first, then offered unrestricted donations after receiving the group’s data.

Scott has signed The Giving Pledge, promising to give away more than half of her wealth, which largely comes from her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Scott, whose net worth Forbes currently estimates at $27 billion, has not given any interviews about her donations, opting to discuss her reasons in a handful of essays that she posted on Medium and now on Yield Giving.

Local organizations that received funding include:

InspireNOLA, $8 million

InspireNOLA runs Alice M. Harte Charter School, Andrew H. Wilson Charter School, 42 Charter School, Dwight D. Eisenhower Charter School, Pierre Capdau Charter School, Edna Karr High School, Eleanor McMain High School and McDonogh 35 Senior High School. The school plans to use the money for bonuses to recruit and retain teachers, student scholarships, extracurricular clubs and organizations, athletic equipment, and innovation grants for teachers and students, said spokesperson Shandrell Briscoe.

Collegiate Academies, $7 million

Collegiate operates four New Orleans high schools – Abramson Sci Academy, Rosenwald Collegiate Academy, Livingston Collegiate Academy and G. W. Carver High School – and one in Baton Rouge, as well as Opportunities Academy and Next Level NOLA, two post-secondary programs. Chief Operating Officer Davis Zaunbrecher said the donation was the largest single philanthropic gift in the organization’s history. “This gift is a powerful expression of belief in young people in New Orleans and Baton Rouge,” he said.

FirstLine Schools, $7 million

FirstLine is a charter management organization that operates Samuel J. Green Charter School, Arthur Ashe Charter School, Langston Hughes Academy and Phillis Wheatley Community School. CEO Sabrina Pence said the funds may be used to hire extra teachers, make “spaces of innovation” where teachers can try new ideas, or hire buses for afterschool programs so more students can attend tutoring.

Community Academies of New Orleans, $3.5 million

This charter organization operates Esperanza Academy, Foundation Preparatory Academy and Lafayette Academy. Officials plan to put the money toward starting a Spanish dual language immersion program that will provide instruction in both English and Spanish, the school said. 

Brothers Empowered to Teach, $2 million

The nonprofit recruits and trains Black men to become teachers through mentorship, programming and paid fellowship programs. CEO Larry Irvin said the money will pay for additional staff, marketing and other needs. 

Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans, $900,000

Junior Achievement is an organization that promotes financial literacy, career skills and entrepreneurship with programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 13 parishes across Southeast Louisiana and three counties in Mississippi. President Larry Washington said the donation is sizable compared to the organization’s $1.5 million annual operating budget. Though the team has been dreaming up “big projects, things we couldn’t have done before,” exact plans are undecided.

The Charter School Growth Fund, which supports New Orleans charters including Collegiate Academies, The Rooted School, Warren Easton and InspireNOLA schools, as well as Teach for America, also received funding. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bessie Venters

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