Baltimore Philanthropists Commit $6 Million to Ensure Pre-K Children are Ready for School

November 17, 2015


Baltimore (11/16/2015) - The Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF) announced today a $6 million contribution to the expansion of Judy Centers, releasing significant public funds to provide early childhood education and support services to 5,000 Baltimore City children and their families – an important step in better preparing children to succeed when they reach school age. The three-year expansion of nine new Judy Centers is made possible by private donations from local philanthropists.

Named for the late Judy Hoyer, wife of U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, Judy Centers are early childhood resource centers that connect children from birth through kindergarten and their families with a host of services including preschool as well as health care, family support, parenting and caregiver classes.

BCF is focused on increasing the number of children ready for school in Baltimore, setting a goal to have 90 percent ready for school by 2017. The percent of Baltimore children measured as school-ready grew from 28 percent in 2002 to 76 percent in 2013. According to the 2013 Maryland Measurement of School Readiness, in Baltimore City, between 85 and 93 percent of children with a Judy Center experience were ready for kindergarten at age five, compared with 76 percent of children citywide.

Based on the demonstrated success of Judy Centers in increasing school readiness, BCF set a goal in 2012 to raise funds to open five Judy Centers in five years. The expansion plan included raising private funds for launching new centers and a memorandum of understanding with City Schools and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) for ongoing public funding for the centers after the first three years of operation. A 2014 federal grant helped leverage philanthropic contributions, allowing BCF to significantly accelerate its timeline and raise $6 million in private support – enough to open nine centers in only three years and fund a citywide coordinator position within the Baltimore City Public Schools system. 

“We are thrilled for the children and the future of Baltimore,” said Thomas E. Wilcox, BCF’s President and CEO. “With more students ready for school our young people will thrive, and we will have the workforce necessary to competing in a global economy. Public-private partnerships are essential to create lasting and sustainable change and Baltimore’s philanthropists are passionate about ensuring the city’s children are ready for school.”

“We strongly believe that the only way our society is going to succeed over the long term is to ensure that every child, regardless of economic standing, has the same opportunity for an excellent education,” said George Sherman, a local philanthropist who, with his wife Betsy, provided significant funds for Judy Centers in Baltimore.

Other generous supporters include Steve and Renee Bisciotti, Eddie and Sylvia Brown, the Cordish family, Bob Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, and Arnie and Alison Richman. (A complete list of Judy Center donors can be found here.)

“The resources that Judy Centers connect children and families with make an incredible difference in school readiness,” said Cheryl DeAtley, Judith P. Hoyer Centers Coordinator for MSDE. “There are 52 Judy Centers across the State, and now, thanks to the Baltimore Community Foundation’s leadership, we have tripled the number of sites serving the neighborhoods of greatest need in Baltimore City."

The first BCF-funded site opened at Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School in East Baltimore in 2013. Today’s event was held at Liberty Elementary in Northwest Baltimore, a BCF-funded site opened in 2014 along with Arundel Elementary in Cherry Hill. The six centers opening in the 2015-16 school year are located within Harford Heights Elementary School, John Ruhrah Elementary School, Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle School, Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School, Arlington Elementary/Middle School and Henderson-Hopkins School. (A map showing the locations of Baltimore City Judy Centers can be found here.)

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