As featured in the newsletter, MBK Alliance Funding News Issue #25: Corporation for National and Community Service, Levitt Foundation, and U.S. Soccer Foundation / Aug. 1, 2019
An Interview with President Raymond Pierce and Lisa Chester, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Corporate Development
Tell us about the Southern Education Foundation. What is your current focus?
The Southern Education Foundation was initially started in 1867 as the Peabody Fund after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War had ended and is now 151 years old. It was founded by several philanthropists originally from the Northeast and abroad who saw that the newly emancipated slaves in the South were not receiving a formal education. Their focus began with developing and training educators, building school buildings, leveraging the new movement of electing African Americans to office, and getting taxation on the books to fund public education in the South. In the subsequent years, we have moved into equitable education policy through research, legislative initiatives, the development of education leaders, and addressing issues like workforce development and mass incarceration.
Our view is that without meaningful change in educational policy and resource priorities for school systems, the current patterns in learning outcomes will remain largely unchanged—gaps in learning and opportunity for students will persist. SEF is the organization behind the groundbreaking New Majority Report which was featured in the U.S. News & World Report. The research determined that low-income students now make up the majority of K-12 students in the country. Other SEF research has included Unexpected Hurdles: Unpacking the Price Tag of College Affordability.
“Foundation” stays in our name because we are the confederation of three foundations, but we don’t give away money in the large sense of the word. We give small grants and donations to grassroots organizations advocating for equity in education, but we don’t have large grant-giving capacity.
Do you have any opportunities for MBK Communities to pursue?
We have our Southern Education Leadership Initiative (SELI), which is an intensive, eight-week, paid summer fellowship for emerging leaders who are interested in advancing racial equity and improving education across the pre-K through college continuum. Our session for 2019 just wrapped up, but we will have next year’s opportunity available for those young people who would like to apply in early 2020 to be placed in fellowships throughout the South.
What should MBK communities know about your work in advancing equity for boys and young men of color (BYMOC)
The Southern Education Foundation embraces the need to address issues that negatively impact BYMOC, particularly African American males.
As we push for the preservation of public funds for public education, as we push against the growing onslaught of privatizing education, and as we pursue legislation for equitable funding of public education, we are fighting for quality education for students of color and students at risk.
Additionally, as we push to ensure that schools are governed adequately and appropriately, we are making sure that the education of African American males is being done by practices, institutions, and people who have their best interest at heart.
What concerns and excites you most about the future of philanthropy in the BYMOC field?
Being relatively new to the Southern Education Foundation (as of January 2018), which has plugged me into the larger philanthropic community, I’m excited to see the interest that the philanthropic community has on the status of African American males. I’m excited to see the overall focus on diversity and inclusion, particularly as that relates to BYMOC. However, that’s not to say that philanthropy is doing everything it can do. They can and should do more.