Ascend Public Charter Schools — the biggest Brooklyn-based charter school network, with 16 total charter schools in the borough — has announced it has been gifted $11 million from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
The donation by Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, comes after a pledge she made in 2019. Called the Giving Pledge, Scott signed the charitable-giving campaign, promising to donate most of her wealth to charities during the course of her lifetime.
Scott's donation is unrestricted, meaning that Ascend can spend the money in whatever way it best sees fit, without any oversight or strings attached from Scott and her team.
Ascend said it plans to use the generous donation from Scott to open three new school facilities in Brooklyn.
Ascend aims to build one new elementary school in Brownsville and two new middle school facilities — one built in Flatbush and the other constructed in Cypress Hills.
The charter school network plans to build these new school facilities by Fall of 2024.
By utilizing Scott's donation, Ascend said that it will allow the charter school network to reach 1,000 more students and expand its student population to 7,000 by 2027.
In a Medium post written by Scott earlier this year, she said her team's focus is "to support the needs of underrepresented people from groups of all kinds."
Ascend prides itself on prioritizing diversity in its schools. According to the charter school network, 93% of Ascend students identify as Black or Latinx. In addition, 78% of Ascend's staff are people of color and 80% of the executive team are also people of color.
Recy Benjamin Dunn, the CEO of Ascend, said that Ascend's prioritization of diversity in its schools is what makes them so special and was probably a significant reason why Scott and her team made such a generous donation.
“Scott is recognizing what I saw the very first day I walked into Ascend,” Dunn said.
“We believe having a high bar, joyful classrooms and embedding diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism are not mutually exclusive tenets. They are hard to do together, but it is what sets us apart.”