Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Community foundation helps bridge Boulder’s achievement gap

April 2, 2012, 9:28 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

This post is one of a series focused on how community foundations are investing in news and information projects to make an impact on issues they care about. The following video was filmed during Knight’s 2012 Media Learning Seminar, where five community foundations gave brief, TED-like talks on how the projects they launched are impacting their cities. Here, Chris Barge shares his experience with the The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County.

Boulder County has Colorado’s largest achievement gap, separating low income kids and their peers from middle or upper income homes, said Chris Barge, director of philanthropic services for The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County.

“[The problem] is astonishing to most people locally,” Barge explained. “It means despite having one of the most competitive school districts in the state, we are failing the kids from low-income families.”

In the video above, Barge described how the foundation decided to do something about what it identified as the two key problems surrounding the issue: a lack of public awareness and no public funding capacity to combat it.

Barge also shared what the foundation learned when it did research to find out what would motivate the public to act, and in particular how women and men saw the problem differently.

Getting the attention of the community was critical Barge said, but it was also important to educate residents and galvanize public support to come up with solutions to the problem. Supported in part by Knight, the foundation was able to focus on how early childhood education is a matter of personal, economic and national security.

And what did the community do once it learned about the gap? It got the school board to take action, agreeing to dedicate millions from an upcoming levy (if voters approved) that would help increase pre-school and Kindergarten classes for low-income schools. The proposal won in a landslide — 60% of voters ultimately supported it: "Our initiative was successful because a community organization got behind it. Community organizations are trusted sources," said Barge.