Monday, June 05, 2006

Human Capital and Michael Benet: The New Philanthropy?

Creative and spirited news comes from Denver's Chief School Officer, Michael Benet. Benet is seeking outside talent to implement and reform several Denver Public Schools initiatives including the Manual High School reform and teachers' new pay-for-performance plan. Benet's plan diverges from the typical consulting model in a major way however. If Benet gets his way all of the work will be donated from private foundations.

I don't know how eager private foundations will be to donate some of their people to the cause. Foundations are popularly known for distributing money in the form of grants typically in a request for proposal fashion. This gifting of human capital would seem to represent something new.

In a smashing piece of polemic the Denver Post argues under a subheading entitled "Strategy Used Nationally" that Benet's ideas are not necessarily new since after all "some urban districts like Denver are using donated human capital to get reform efforts moving." That's like saying "the National Zoo has a baby giant panda. But the National Zoo is not alone. Other zoos like the National Zoo have baby giant pandas too.' The Denver Post misses the mark again when it likens what Benet is attempting to do with donated human capital to the way Joel Klein in NYC uses consultants whose salaries are privately funded. Again, these two--human capital donations and funding consultants with private money--are very different things.

I use this piece of poor reporting to suggest that Benet's ideas are ambitious and relatively new to the world of education. It is possible that someone could create a new model of philanthropy in education built almost entirely on a human capital model. Interesting.


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