Supporting Public Education through Smarter Partnerships in LA County

The Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) is the nation’s largest regional education agency. LACOE is charged with educating more than 2 million preschool and school-age children across 80 public school districts. With a vastly diverse population of students, including young people in correctional facilities, LACOE’s commitment to excellence comes with an equally great responsibility: to meet the many and often-complex needs of the students it serves. The school administrators’ creativity and entrepreneurship is called upon to forge community and county partnerships that can help at-risk kids get the most out of their education, no matter their background or life circumstances.

Too often, well-intended private philanthropy misses opportunities to partner with public school systems that serve the greatest number of the children these donors hope to reach. Private funders often want to reach large numbers of students, and also possess flexible resources that can fuel innovation. In contrast, public education funds – which must stretch to meet the needs of large and diverse student populations – serve millions of kids but rarely possess flexibility. And yet public education teachers and leaders know what their kids need.

LACOE’s commitment to excellence comes with an equally great responsibility: to meet the many and often-complex needs of the students it serves.

In Los Angeles, an exciting  initiative is taking shape under the leadership of LACOE Superintendent Dr. Debra Duardo. Dr. Duardo created a strategic partnerships initiative that serves as the “front door” for savvy private funders who want their resources to align with public funds to accelerate innovation that can benefit the greatest number of children.

One of LACOE’s most recent accomplishments is its formalization of a Communities Schools Initiative in 15 pilot districts, complete with a full-time director and in-school coordinators co-funded between LACOE and private donors. LACOE’s work on the Communities Schools Initiative is twofold. First, staff collaborate across county agencies, including the departments of Children and Family Services, Public Health, Public Social Services, and Probation, to source funding and staff to support under-resourced schools. Then, with the help of its newly hired director, the program connects kids and families with a wide range of public and private programming, from help with food security to mental health support. Without private funds LACOE could not have made the pilot work.

Since the initial partnership began with Mountain Philanthropies, LACOE has launched the Greater LA Education Foundation and received more than $20,000,000 of local investment to support the community schools initiative and other strategic priorities. Mountain Philanthropies is honored to support the critical work that is bringing school and community leaders together with government, public, private and community-based organizations to create meaningful and lasting change for public education.