The NewSchools Venture Fund is a left-of-center grantmaking organization which funds projects intended to support the American public school system. While the fund claims that it is committed to “every young person,” it devotes particular attention to initiatives involving minority groups, and two of its four investment areas are explicitly race-based. Since its creation in the late 1990s, NewSchools has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to public schools. 1
The NewSchools Venture Fund invests in a wide range of education-related initiatives, focusing almost exclusively on public education and often prioritizing projects with left-progressive agendas. NewSchools prefers to fund public schools that it views as attempting to innovate, as well as organizations developing new school curricula and educational tools. 2
NewSchools has two separate lines of effort related to left-progressive race ideology. One is changing the demographics of the teaching and school administration professions, which the fund claims is necessary in order to improve the performance of minority students. The other is a broader race-based grant program, which NewSchools claims to offer with few restrictions on how exactly the funds are spent. 3
Funding is split into four categories: 4
- Innovative Public Schools helps fund the launch of new educational facilities – literally, new schools.
- Learning Solutions provides money to those trying to change how schools conduct education.
- Diverse Leaders explicitly focuses on raising “the number of Black and Latino educators and education leaders,” and seeks “to mobilize parents to advocate for change” in left-of-center areas like “diversity, equity and inclusion…”
- Racial Equity provides money only to non-white individuals “who have ideas for addressing racial inequities in education.”
History and Impact
The NewSchools Venture Fund was founded in 1998 by John Doerr and Brook Byers, two venture capitalists and self-described “social entrepreneurs.” Since its founding, the fund claims to have invested nearly $345 million in more than 1,000 education activists and policy advocates. Additionally, NewSchools claims that schools started with its support serve as many as 54,000 students across the United States. 5
NewSchools promotes using the public school system for advancing left-progressive and critical race theory-aligned views on race and race relations in society. The fund endorses the idea of using the school setting as an environment for protest and pushes for schools to de-emphasize upholding academic standards. NewSchools also blames racial disparities in educational outcomes entirely on the school system and claims that hiring teachers on the basis of race is necessary in order to improve achievement among minority students. 6
Stacey Childress has been the chief executive officer of the NewSchools Venture Fund since 2014. She previously worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as the head of its “next generation learning” team. She has also taught at Harvard Business School. 7
Paula Sneed is the president of the NewSchools board of directors. She is a career food industry executive and consultant. Sneed was also a founding partner at the left-of-center philanthropic consulting organization Social Venture Partners. 8
In 2020, the NewSchools Venture Fund received more than $44 million in contributions and grants. NewSchools distributed more than $28 million in venture capital and allocated more than $9 million for its fiscally sponsored projects. The fund’s total assets in 2020 totaled just under $78 million. 9
In January 2022, NewSchools received a $35 million grant from Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of the e-commerce platform Amazon. In a statement, NewSchools announced that the investment was the largest the fund had ever received, and emphasized that a portion of the grant money would go towards advancing left-progressive race ideology in schools. 10 Other financial backers of NewSchools have included the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which has given the fund more than $2 million since the early 2000s. 11
- “About Us.” NewSchools. Accessed February 27, 2022. https://www.newschools.org/about-us/
- “Ventures.” NewSchools Venture Fund. Accessed February 27, 2022.https://www.newschools.org/about-us/ventures/
- “Ventures.” NewSchools Venture Fund. Accessed February 27, 2022. https://www.newschools.org/about-us/ventures/
- “Ventures.” NewSchools Venture Fund. Accessed February 28, 2022. https://www.newschools.org/about-us/ventures/
- “Our History.” NewSchools Venture Fund. Accessed February 27, 2022. https://www.newschools.org/about-us/our-history/
- Frances Messano. “Our Moral Imperative: Racial Equity and the Public School System.” NewSchools Venture Fund. June 23, 2020. Accessed February 27, 2022. https://www.newschools.org/blog/our-moral-imperative-racial-equity-and-the-public-school-system/
- “Stacey Childress.” NewSchools Venture Fund. Accessed February 27, 2022. https://www.newschools.org/team/stacey-childress/
- “Paula Sneed.” NewSchools Venture Fund. Accessed February 27, 2022. https://www.newschools.org/team/paula-sneed-2/
- “Consolidated Financial Statements.” New Schools Fund and Subsidiary. December 31, 2020. Accessed February 27, 2022. https://www.newschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/NewSchools-Fund-2020-Final.pdf
- Frances Messano and Stacey Childress. “MacKenzie Scott Makes Historic Gift to NewSchools Venture Fund.” NewSchools Venture Fund. January 27, 2022.
- “NewSchools Venture Fund – For General Operating Support.” William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Accessed February 27, 2022.