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The D.C. Education Compact, founded five years ago to organize outside support for the city’s public schools, will close up shop next week.
DCEC executive director Donna Power Stowe announced in an e-mail to its supporters yesterday that the group “will cease operations as an independent organization.” In an interview today, Stowe explained the circumstances of the shuttering: “We can’t raise enough operating funds,” she says. “It’s a function of the recession.” The group raised $6.4 million in the fiscal year ending in June 2008, according to tax records, and employs four.
The DCEC was established in 2004 by then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams, DCPS Superintendent Clifford Janey, other government types, businesses, foundations, and nonprofits, and it has maintained a blue-chip board over the years, chaired by George Vradenburg, the former AOL exec whose own foundation has taken an interest in education issues.
Among the DCEC’s founding goals was to develop a “consensus agenda” for school reform, and part of the group’s work was to serve as a conduit of private funds directly into DCPS. For instance, in 2007, the Robertson Foundation gave $3 million and the Broad Foundation gave $1.25 million—-funds that were used to complete studies of DCPS management conducted by McKinsey & Co. and Alvarez & Marsal. In recent years, however, the intermediary role “pretty much started to phase out,” Stowe says, once Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his chancellor, Michelle Rhee, arrived. They’ve established their own intermediary, the D.C. Public Education Fund.
Outside of the money, DCEC has worked recently on organzing nonprofit and philanthropic interests around “hubs” concerning college success, early education, literacy issues, and so on, bringing numerous groups together to coordinate and share data and practices. “If you think about all the nonprofits out there in D.C., there are lots of them [that are] not really coordinating in a significant way,” says Stowe, who holds out hope that the hubs will continue.
“We’re working to take all of the work we developed and take it into an another organization,” Stowe says. Citing ongoing negotiations, she declined to take any potential hosts.