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Funders Invest $1M for Newark Infants and Toddlers

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Council of New Jersey Grantmakers’ Affinity Group Announces $1M Investment in Expanding Early Education: Cornerstone Funding from Turrell Fund, Challenge Grant from Foundation for Newark’s Future Help Launch Shared Investment Strategy Among New Jersey Funders.

The Newark Early Learning Funders Group, an affinity group of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, has announced a $1 million shared investment strategy, providing early education opportunities for Newark children ages zero to three. The group’s strategy is built on cornerstone funding of over $500,000 from the Turrell Fund, a challenge grant of $250,000 from the Foundation for Newark’s Future, and supporting commitments from The Nicholson Foundation and the Schumann Fund for New Jersey.

Meeting for over 18 months at the Turrell Fund, the Early Learning Funders Group was guided by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) and recommendations from a parent-led Early Childhood Policy Board.  “ACNJ served as moral compass and intellectual leadership for the group.  We have been proud to invest robustly in ACNJ and early learning to strengthen infant and toddler education,” said Curt Fields, President of the Turrell Fund and head of the Early Learning Funders Group.

“Early childhood education is key to leveling the playing field for kids growing up in poverty,” said Kim McLain, CEO at the Foundation for Newark’s Future.  “We are thrilled to have seeded the establishment of the Early Learning Policy Board, which prioritized an often-forgotten community voice, and we are thankful to the Early Learning Funders Group for their unprecedented support,” said McLain.

“The Early Learning Funders Group has been among the most active of the affinity groups within the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers,” said Nina Stack, President of the statewide council. “They serve as a national model for other stakeholder groupscommitted to collective action. They work in concert with the Council’s Newark Philanthropic Liaison Jeremy Johnson, who connects them to City Halland other funders in the grantmaking community,” said Stack. The funders’ aligned strategy will have three primary goals:

  • Improving Parents’ Access to Information
  • Providing Early Childhood Teachers with Opportunities for Professional Growth
  • Improving Early Learning Centers by Investing in Center Directors

The announcement comes one year after  a “Kids Count” report by Advocates for Children of New Jersey exposed that half of the children in Newark ages five and under live in poverty, a quarter in extreme poverty. With the help of Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), the Foundation for Newark’s Future responded by pledging $250,000 through a challenge grant to identify systemic improvements to stem this crisis. At the same time, a community driven and parent-led Early Learning Policy Board was formed to make recommendations on the use of the funds.

The Early Learning Funders Group will partner with Programs for Parents, the Child Care and Resource Referral Agency for Essex County, and Advocates for Children of New Jersey to implement the Policy Board’s recommendations.

“Quality early childhood education is critical to the long-term success of young people,” said Senator Booker. “I commend the local philanthropic community for meeting the challenge grant. This initiative serves as a true model of collaboration and partnership, and it represents a shared vision for Newark’s youngest citizens.”

“Center-focused initiatives that enhance practice and engage families are especially strategic when working with this critical population,” remarked Matthew Melmed, Executive Director of ZERO TO THREE a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving policy and practice so that all babies have a healthy start in life. “Early Head Start is a model platform for serving vulnerable babies and families, and these initiatives will only make Early Head Start stronger.”