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A New National Collaboration on Early Childhood, Backed by Pritzker Wealth

November 28, 2017
Caitlin Reilly
Inside Philanthropy

There’s been a lot of movement in the early childhood learning space in the last few years. While some funders have scaled national initiatives, most projects still happen on the local level, like the work the Kenneth Rainin Foundation does in Oakland and the William Penn Foundation does in Philadelphia. Even some funders with a national profile will often take a local focus, like the Detroit-based project the W.K. Kellogg and Kresge foundations recently announced.

So when a funder does back an ambitious early childhood project at the national level, it’s worth paying attention—especially when we’re talking about a billionaire donor who’s lately been ramping up his giving.

J.B. Pritzker and his wife M.K. are the philanthropists behind the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, which has a keen focus on research and policy and been expanding its activities lately to “promote high quality early learning and development.” Now this outfit is partnering with several national organizations with strong community ties to enhance local support for young children, from birth to the age of three, and their family. The Pritzkers, long-time champions of early childhood learning, put up $6.5 million to support a one-year pilot.

J.B. Pritzker is one of a number of Pritzer philanthropists that we keep tabs on. But he’s stood out for his intense focus on early childhood, talking fervently about the issue and becoming an activist mega-giver in this area. Like many proponents of early childhood learning, he sees interventions focused on the first several years of a child’s life as the best possible investment a society can make. He also sees such investments as the best way to level the playing field for low-income kids and children of color.

Pritzker believes the space has been overlooked by philanthropists and plenty of his giving has come with the goal of changing that. Back in 2013, he donated $20 million to the Early Childhood Innovation Accelerator to increase the number of programs operating in the space. He’s been supporter of the Chicago-based Ounce of Prevention Fund and one of the founding supporters of the First Five Years Fund, which is a national organization advocating for early care and learning programs. He’s also funded research at the Pritzker Consortium on Early Childhood Development at the University of Chicago.