Community Foundation targets early education for “gap kids”

| Oct 27, 2009

Focus on kids. Chris Barge (left) and Morgan Rogers unveiled the Community Foundation’s new Trends report, which highlights a school-performance gap between Boulder County’s have and have-much-less children. (Reporter photo)

Who in Boulder is more of a dynamo than Morgan Rogers, who serves as Civic Forum Director at The Community Foundation? In a 45-minute presentation of the Foundation’s new Trends report in that organization’s conference room Monday, Oct. 26, Morgan flashed charts and ticked off a detailed overview of Boulder County’s social and economic health.

It’s a study in contrasts, revealing a rather unsightly gap between the wealthy and the struggling, most of the latter group being our Latino population.

Achievement gap between white/higher income and Latino/lower income kids in Boulder Valley schools (Source: The Community Foundation Trends report, 2009)

Achievement gap between white/higher income and Latino/lower income kids in Boulder Valley schools (Source: The Community Foundation Trends report, 2009)

Fountain of revealing statistics. The county as a whole boasted a 2008 median family income of $85,000 (Boulder’s was $91,000). Real estate was pricey in Boulder ($538,000 median home price), much cheaper elsewhere ($220,000 in Longmont). Of the 294,000 of us in the county, 13 percent were Latino – double the percentage of 1990 (Boulder itself is 9 percent Latino). Our population is aging: 12 percent are over 60 now but that number’s projected to rise to 20% by 2020. The poor have lousy access to mental-health counseling and to affordable child care. Eleven percent of residents and 5 percent of families are living below the federally defined poverty level.

Other statistics abound in the 70-page report: 2 percent of us drive hybrid cars; 67 percent of us drive to work alone in our cars, only 9 percent of us walk or bike to work. We have a high concentration of artists here, but they only earn, on average, $20,000 a year.

Achievement gap. The Trends report’s most striking finding was of a continuing “Achievement Gap” between white and Latino kids, reflected in a sharp divergence in school test scores. That’s why the Community Foundation last year launched an Early Childhood Initiative, directing money from its unrestricted grant-making fund, the Community Trust, to preschool education for what they’re calling the “gap kids.” The first step in this initiative was $90,000 given this summer to a then-struggling program called Providers Advancing School Outcomes (PASO). See Chris Barge, Community Foundation’s director of philanthropic services, further explain the “gap kids” initiative in this video.

Chris Barge of The Community Foundation, Boulder

For all its wealth, Boulder County’s a bit laggard in its support of philanthropic causes, explained Community Foundation President Josie Heath. Why? The reasons they’ve identified include inaccurate perceptions that nonprofits spend too much on administration (they don’t) and that the County’s needs are small (they aren’t), plus a lack of connectedness to the community among many.

The Foundation’s directors and staff are excited to be able, through the Early Childhood Initiative, to direct a good piece of their $5 million in total annual grants to the “gap kids,” which the Trends report highlights as perhaps our biggest social ill. In Chris Barge’s words: “We’re starting with the kids.”

Oh, but let’s give the final word to that fireball Morgan Rogers, whom we cornered after her must-see presentation.

Morgan Rogers of The Community Foundation, Boulder

(To read the Trends report or to schedule a presentation about it for your community group, contact Chris Barge at the Community Foundation by e-mail or by phone at 303-442-0436.)