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History

When the 21st Century School Fund was founded in 1994, the DC Public Schools infrastructure was failing. The school system had operated for over twenty years without a long-range facilities plan, had under funded maintenance and eliminated almost all funding for new construction and facility modernization. In addition, as student enrollment in the District fell, many schools were threatened with closure. Many schools did, in fact, close temporarily due to fire code violations and degrading facilities. On top of these problems, the District was unable to retain permanent leadership that could help set a course to rebuild the school system. From 1995 to 2001, the District went through two mayors, four superintendents, four different governance structures, and four directors of facilities.

In this environment, characterized by crisis management, the 21st Century School Fund (21CSF) was founded to help develop the first facilities master plan in two decades and to support the parents and community members of the Oyster Elementary School who were working to build a new school for their neighborhood. Through our work on these projects we amassed information and expertise on the needs and challenges facing public schools and their communities, and developed skill in understanding and navigating public policy and federal and local government laws. We also developed our own data management and dissemination software programs, Format-PRO® and DCSchoolSearch.com, publications and training tools.

 

Since 1995, we have expanded our focus from the District of Columbia to include the District and urban communities nationwide, where we pursue our mission of building the public will and capacity to improve urban public school facilities. In the District of Columbia we continue to work directly with the community, school district personnel and individual public officials on building the DC Public Schools infrastructure. Nationally we provide technical assistance, training and tools to nonprofit organizations, school districts and local, state and federal public agencies to support their work on school facility issues. Our work is guided by a vision that one day good public schools will be both a reasonable expectation and a reality in school districts throughout the nation.

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