New York City Education Program

For its first 30 years, the RBF supported New York City cultural institutions and service agencies because the Fund and many Rockefeller family members called the city home. By the 1970s, the city struggled with the middle class exodus to the suburbs, declining employment, a rising crime rate, and an unprecedented fiscal crisis. After a six-month staff study in 1972-73, the RBF adopted New York City’s public education system as an area of concern for the first time, recognizing that strong schools were crucial to attracting and retaining residents and providing future access to jobs. While the education system was one of the city’s largest expenditures, it produced disappointing results. The Fund identified five areas for grant action: parent education; school experiments; legal rights and litigation; enrichment for principals and teachers; and research, evaluation, and documentation. One of the few private foundations to concern itself with the public schools at the time, the RBF also funded arts organizations providing students with enrichment opportunities, including the Society of the Third Street Music School Settlement, the Young Filmmakers Foundation, and Arts Resources for Teachers and Students, Inc. 


Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Archive Center.

A 1970s theater class for New York City schoolchildren at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club.

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