Philanthropy for the Classroom
Amit Raizada Foundation
February 19, 2021
School is a wonderful time. It’s a period of growth and exploration, in which children are exposed to new ideas and learn the critical social skills that undergird their personal and cognitive development. It’s a time of tremendous excitement and anticipation—annual rituals like prom and field trips to high school football games and graduations.
For many children across the country, school is an opportunity for intergenerational mobility. Good grades and a strong SAT/ACT score—disproportionately accessible to higher-income students but still readily available to any individual willing to put in the hard work and burn the midnight oil—can propel children from the most unfortunate of circumstances to a university degree, and later, a successful career.
That the COVID-19 pandemic has deprived so many hard-working students of these opportunities and has erected new barriers to overcome is perhaps one of the most tragic and long-lasting implications of this painful year.
Low-income families have disproportionately borne the brunt of the pandemic. When it comes to education, the same holds true. Recent reporting has found that nearly half of all American K-12 students are receiving instruction fully online. With many school districts—particularly those in low-income and underinvested communities—struggling to adapt on the fly to these new modes of instruction, significant disparities in educational quality and possibility have opened up. Nearly three-quarters of low-income families fear their children are missing out on critical educational opportunities.
As the pandemic nears its one-year anniversary, experts fear students across the country will experience a COVID slide, or a decrease in educational outcomes after a year of rushed and inconsistent instruction models that often failed to meet the challenges of the moment. The COVID slide is precipitated in equal part by the digital divide, which I’ve written about extensively in the past.
In many communities around the country, authorities have prioritized reopening classrooms as quickly as is deemed safe. While this is an important step, we must work to continue to ensure that children are supported as they learn from home—particularly as rising caseloads in states like California threaten to keep students at home for months to come.
Philanthropists can help reverse these trends. Philanthropic organizations and nonprofits have played a pivotal role in getting resources to students who don’t have access to the learning materials they need, such as foster youth, children experiencing homelessness and children of essential workers.
A number of organizations are already hard at work developing solutions to these challenges. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, for example, is providing meals, recreational and academic opportunities in a safe environment. Many Clubs have reopened and are operating all day, rather than only after school, so youth have access to laptops, homework help, and trusted mentors.
I came to this country from India at the age of two, the son of middle-class parents who moved their children half-way across the world in search of a better life, a stronger education, and greater opportunities. Thanks in large part to the public education system in the state of Michigan, I was received the academic opportunities my parents sacrificed to deeply to provide. I know firsthand the extent to which education can uplift communities and empower lives; as chairman of the Amit Raizada Foundation, I remain committed to providing support to students and families across the country during this trying time.