Austin Ed Fund hopes to pump more cash into Austin classrooms

The new look of the Austin Ed Fund

KXAN (AUSTIN) – After operating behind the scenes for 22 years, a non-profit whose sole purpose is fundraising for Austin ISD students and teachers says they are ready to be center stage.

The Austin Ed Fund, formerly called the Austin Public Education Foundation, has a revamped name, a new logo, a new website, a larger board of directors and a new coordinator hired in January.

On Monday, Senator Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and his wife put their support behind the organization’s fresh start at a luncheon at the Headliner’s Club in downtown Austin.

It was somewhat of a soft launch, and a way to generate excitement about the group’s transformation aimed at taking a more proactive approach in seeking out money for students, teachers and the district.

In the past, Austin Ed Fund’s new Coordinator Caroline Newman Phillips said the foundation played a more responsive role by accepting donations from anyone interested in writing a check.

The former classroom teacher with past experience raising private money for education said they will work harder to actively seek out people, groups and companies who want to support the district.

“We know there’s a lot of people out there that want to support that good work and so we’re a vehicle for doing so.” said Newman Phillips.

Since its conception in 1993, the old foundation raised about $13 million.

The new mission is to generate more than $1 million a year going directly to district initiatives and campuses like Reagan High School.

“This is my eighth year and when I first got here the school was a struggling school,” said principal Anabel Garza.

Now the campus is an early college high school that jumped from 700 students to more than 1300.

Six Reagan teachers have applied for innovation grants through the new Austin Ed Fund.

One of the projects would improve their already impressive community garden by adding a safe path for students with special needs to access the beds.

“That’s coming from the heart. They want all kids to have equal access to opportunities,” said Garza.

Others teacher want money for students to take more fields trips to museums, art exhibits, and universities for college visits to experience higher education first hand.

There are extra opportunities, but not enough money in the budget to cover.

“It allows our kids to think outside the box to create things,” said Garza. “Solutions to real world problems. Not the same ‘ole same ‘ole.”

Austin Ed Fund received about 55 submissions for their innovation grants. They will announce about 15 winners in November who will get anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the scope of their project.

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