Hilton Prize Increased
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which funds the Hilton Humanitarian Prize for the alleviation of human suffering, has increased the prize by 50 percent, to $1.5 million. Steve Hilton, chairman and CEO of the Hilton Foundation, says the size of the award was increased to “celebrate the tenth anniversary of the prize and to underscore the tremendous humanitarian needs facing our globe.”
The nominating period for the 2005 prize closes on November 7. An independent international panel of judges will make the final selection, to be announced in the autumn of 2006. Current nominees include Concern Worldwide, the National CASA Association, and the Hope for African Children Initiative.
Judy Miller, vice president of the Hilton Foundation, says that “one of the most rewarding aspects of the nomination process is that the Hilton Foundation is exposed to new and innovative organizations performing extraordinary work, and these are organizations we would not have known otherwise through our normal grantmaking process.”
A new study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concludes that public charter schools operate at a distinct financial disadvantage in comparison to their standard public school competitors, according to the New York Times. The study, entitled “Charter School Funding: Inequity’s Next Frontier,” finds that in 16 states and the District of Columbia (which together educate 84 percent of the nation’s one million charter school students), charter schools receive approximately 22 percent less per-pupil funding than do public schools. That translates into a differential of some $450,000 per year in a typical charter school with 250 students.
One of the study’s authors, Chester E. Finn Jr., told the Times that he foresaw the rise of a campaign to redress this inequity, possibly extending to legal action: “When there are aggrieved parties in education…who are suing because they feel they’re not getting their fair share of the public dollar, I don’t see why charter schools shouldn’t do likewise,”
The Fordham report, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, has been greeted with skepticism in certain quarters. John See, a spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), described the union as having “some serious questions” about the report’s contents. The AFT alleges that the report fails to account for the higher expenses incurred by public schools that provide services for disabled and homeless children.
“The chief reason” charter schools are “typically underfunded,” the report says, is that conventional public schools have access to local government funds to underwrite the large expense of building and renovating facilities, whereas charter schools have little or no such access. The report included charter schools’ receipt of start-up grants and charitable donations, which are usually temporary. Without counting these “revenue streams, the disparities reported would be even larger.”
Rewarding Winners and Givers
The Opus Prize Foundation, a charitable arm of the family of development and property management companies known as the Opus Group, annually awards over $1 million to individuals and organizations engaged in faith-based humanitarian efforts that “demonstrate innovative strategies” for solving problems like poverty and disease “in ways that foster personal responsibility and independence.” The winner of this year’s Opus Prize and two finalists were recently announced at Marquette University. Reach Education Action Programme (REAP) in Mumbai, India, founded by the Rev.
Trevor Miranda, S.J., received the $1 million award to further his network of more than 450 sites that offer education to a diverse group of over 7,000 people, from pre-schoolers and child laborers to illiterate adults. Father Miranda’s work, the foundation said, exemplifies the five core values of the Opus Prize—social entrepreneurship, transformational leadership, self-sufficiency, faith, and service to others—by working to ensure every citizen is educated. Two prizes of $100,000 each will also be awarded to Dr. Juliana Akinyi Otieno, who serves as a pediatrician at New Nyanza General Hospital in Kisumu, Kenya, and Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, an orphanage in Miacatlan, Mexico, led by the Rev. William B. Wasson.
The Opus Prize Foundation structures its awards so that not only prize-winners are helped. Aiming to boost college students’ lifelong commitment to service, the foundation pairs each year with a different Catholic university for help with the prize-giving. This year, the foundation engaged several students from Marquette to participate in due diligence trips to the finalists’ locations, and the university is devoting the 2005-2006 school year to the theme, “Human Dignity, Human Rights: A Call to Service,” which commenced at the campus kick-off on September 6.