In 1991, The Schott Foundation was co-founded by Lilo Leeds and her son, Greg Jobin-Leeds. The Foundation is named after Caroline and Sigmund Schott, Lilo’s parents who were German-Jewish immigrants who escaped Nazi Germany with their daughter and built successful lives in the United States. Since its inception as a family foundation, The Schott Foundation has possessed an unwavering commitment to equity and justice that guides its mission to develop and strengthen a broad-based and representative movement to achieve fully resourced, high quality Pre-K – 12 public education for all children. Schott engages in strategic collaborations with grassroots organizations and philanthropic partners who refuse to accept inequitable and substandard education for children in the U.S.
Schott’s core belief is that a grassroots movement is central to systemic change in the disparities poor children and children of color face in schools. In helping to build this movement, Schott recognizes its pivotal role as both funder and advocate.
At the outset, Greg Jobin-Leeds, Schott’s founding President and CEO, focused the strategy for achieving equitable educational opportunities squarely on systemic policy change. Under his leadership, the Foundation developed a long-term funding strategy that helped achieve education policy changes in New York and Massachusetts.
The Schott Foundation has funded statewide legislative and voter opinion studies, litigation, donor collaboratives, leadership development and media campaigns. In the mid-1990s, The Schott Foundation provided seed funding to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), which brought its landmark court case against the State of New York over the state’s unjust educational funding formula. The case sparked a statewide push to boldly reform New York’s public education funding policy.
In the late 1990s, The Schott Foundation provided seed money to start the Early Education for All campaign in Massachusetts. Convinced that all children need quality early education programs in order to flourish in public school, The Schott Foundation saw this as a way to create a movement to promote quality early education programs for all children in Massachusetts. Until the inception of Early Education for All, insufficient focus and leadership kept this critical cause from moving more forward for tens of thousands of families and children in Massachusetts.
In 1999 Schott became a public charity. Because the Foundation’s vision for change held that those most affected must lead the way in advocating for change, the Leeds and Jobin-Leeds families sustained their funding commitment but gave up a large degree of control, and Schott engaged a more inclusive and broad-based leadership.
In 2001, The Schott Foundation entered a new phase of growth when Dr. Rosa A. Smith became its new president. Her work around framing the educational vulnerability of young Black males as the litmus test for the No Child Left Behind Act has drawn national attention. Looking at the issue of gender with a racial lens, this new area of Schott’s work — including the ongoing biennial report series on Black Boys educational achievement nationwide — has led school districts across the country to re-examine how they educate and measure the outcomes of the students who are most vulnerable to school failure.
In 2007, Dr. John H. Jackson became Schott’s current President and CEO. Under his leadership, our continued release of the Black Boys reports have provided the data that fuels philanthropic, governmental, and activist campaigns to improve the achievement of black male students in public education. (Read more about our Black Boys reports here.)
One of Jackson’s most important contributions is the establishment of the National Opportunity to Learn (OTL) Campaign. The OTL campaign focuses on addressing the wider opportunity gaps, which too often fuel the achievement gaps across the nation. This campaign has united a growing coalition of advocates and organizers from across the country working on many issues, all of which impacts a student’s opportunity to learn.
Since 2009 Schott has held several Opportunity to Learn Campaign Summits across the country to bring diverse organizations and equity advocates together to meet and strategize around building public will for systemic, grassroots-led change. Schott expanded its footprint to target states and localities across the country, including the Northeast, the Midwest, the South, and the West Coast.
Schott has leveraged its research and reports to focus attention not just on the problems that children face, but also proactive policy solutions. Since 2012, Schott and our allies have produced numerous policy guides for elected officials, pointing the way for lawmakers who want to make systemic change and need a place to start.
More than two decades after Schott’s founding, we are more committed than ever to helping build this movement and institutionalizing the solutions that provide all students a fair and substantive opportunity to learn.