Kauffman Foundation dreams big
The Kansas City Star
There’s an enviable bigness to all of Carl Schramm’s dreams for the Kauffman Foundation.
With the launch of the Kauffman Charter School for fifth graders, he hopes for a future in Kansas City of all charter schools. And with a new mayor, he finally has a leader who wants Kansas City to identify itself as a city of entrepreneurship.
The late Ewing Kauffman left clear directives for the foundation leader: improve education, especially for low-income children, and encourage more entrepreneurs.
The foundation’s education agenda includes two big plays: The Project Choice initiative that offers students who choose to stay out of trouble a shot at college aid, and the deeply researched launch of a new charter school, catering to Kansas City students from zip codes with the lowest-performing public schools.
The school year is young and the first 100 students are just beginning the new curriculum and schedule. The goal is emphasized daily: These kids should be prepared to succeed in college and graduate.
After two years of national research on the best teaching ideas and incorporating some new tactics of the foundation’s creation, Schramm is hoping the model charter school can eventually lead the way to the “charterization of the entire city.” And once that happens, Kansas City can become known as the signal city that really made a difference in education, Schramm suggests.
Every city needs committed boosters, and boosters with incredibly deep pockets present grand opportunities.
While he dreams big, he knows the challenges are big, too. His passion for the need for educational improvement is based in the idea that education is the civil rights issue of our time. “It’s a disgrace we are leaving so many kids behind,” he told a Central Exchange audience Tuesday, as a segment in a year-long series on “Kansas City, America’s Creative Crossroads.”
Kauffman’s education focus at the college level is directed at improving business education, especially entrepreneurship, a subject that Schramm believes gets short-shrift at many colleges.
He and Robert Litan, an economist at Kauffman Foundation, plan to release a book next year that shows the link between new firms and healthy economies. Already, 40 percent of GDP in America comes from companies that didn’t exist before 1980.
To further that figure, and help improve America’s economy, Kauffman Foundation is pushing much more federal attention on start-ups. Among the challenges ahead: the scandalous expense of college education and the rising debt of exiting graduates. Too many potential entrepreneurs cannot pursue their dreams because of their debt, Schramm says. And that requires another fix.
Schramm is eloquent on many topics. On Tuesday, the only question that stumped him was the outcome of the ultra-high-speed Google fiber network coming to Kansas City, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo. While he’s pretty sure it’s great, he can’t yet imagine what it will look like. As a start though, an e-business migration magnet looks pretty good to him.