Why Sharks Attend An Education Policy Conference In Boise This Week

Sep 8, 2016

A national education policy advocacy organization is holding its 3rd annual conference in Boise this week. The agenda is mostly what you’d expect, a lot of speeches, which started Wednesday night and run through Friday. But the conference also features a reality TV twist.

America Succeeds is a Colorado-based education policy organization with affiliates in five states including the group Idaho Business for Education. America Succeeds and its members focus on bringing business practices into public education and getting public education to focus on the workforce needs of business. That’s a movement with both supporters and critics.

America Succeeds holds its conference, known as EDventure, in Boise each year because the Boise based J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is a major funder. It’s attended by America Succeeds affiliates and other education policy and advocacy groups from around the country.

Thursday night the conference features what it calls the Shark Tank. It’s based on an ABC TV show of the same name where entrepreneurs pitch ideas to investors called sharks.

“Our philanthropic version of that features sharks that come from foundations from across the country,” explains Tim Taylor, America Succeeds’ executive director. “And the policy and advocacy organizations that attend our event can pitch ideas and the sharks will fund on the spot the most compelling and engaging and interesting.”

Taylor says the foundations represented include the Albertson Foundation and the Gates Foundation. He says the best pitches can get an organization $50,000 to implement its idea.

“A really interesting one was an organization that pitched an idea to do school board grades to provide some accountability to school boards, which is often a link in the system that doesn’t go under much scrutiny,” Taylor says.  

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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