Cradle to Career office in the Family Focus building.

In a surprising last-minute decision, the District 202/Evanston Township High School Board of Education has pulled its annual $50,000 grant to Cradle to Career from the school system’s 2024 budget.

Cradle to Career is, according to its website, “a collaborative partnership of more than 40 organizations committed to realizing a more equitable community in Evanston,” by targeting poverty, inequality and school and career readiness in a variety of ways.

But just before the D202 board voted on the budget Monday night, member Gretchen Livingston said Cradle to Career “has not done much of anything the past two years” to achieve its goals of addressing equity, family stability and academic outcomes.

Livingston, who served as D202’s representative to Cradle the past couple of years, said “I don’t disagree with their goals, but over the last year or two I have no idea” if it’s even possible to see if those goals are being accomplished.

“$50,000 is a lot of money,” Livingston said.

“We could get a lot done by using that money directly.”

The Cradle to Career website states that the organization uses “Result-Based Accountability techniques” as an indicator of progress, but clicking the “Result-Based” link only turns up an “Oops, This Page Could Not Be Found.”

Livingston said District 202 has funded Cradle for the last dozen years. “12 times $50,000” is a lot of money, Livingston noted, but said she could not “point to very much” that the agency has done lately to justify getting the grants.

Livingston proposed, and the board agreed, to remove the $50,000 from the 2024 budget.

D202 board approved the $105.2 M budget for FY24, but minus the $50,000 for Cradle to Career.

But while the vote was unanimous on both the overall budget and dropping Cradle funds, board Vice-President Monique Parsons said that for her, the decision on Cradle was “complicated.”

Parsons is president and CEO of the McGaw YMCA. The “Y” is one of the partner organizations involved with Cradle to Career, and, in fact, her picture is on Cradle’s website as a member of the group’s Action Teams.

Parsons told Livingston that “you’re not by yourself” in hoping that Cradle can do more.

Gretchen Livingston (L) and Monique Parsons.

“I get it,” Parsons said.

“There’s confusion and frustration,” she noted, but also hope that the issues can be resolved.

“We should ask questions. We’re paying.”

ETHS itself is (or perhaps now, was) one of Cradle’s 40-plus community partners, and Superintendent Marcus Campbell’s photo is also on the agency’s website.

“We need to force the conversation about how our money is being spent,” Campbell said of the school board’s decision to pull the grant.

This is not the first time Cradle-to-Career’s effectiveness has been questioned.

In 2021, Ald. Cicely Fleming said it was unclear if the $50,000 given by the City of Evanston was money well spent, although City Council ultimately OK’d the expenditure.

Evanston Now left a message with Cradle to Career, asking for their response to the District 202 decision. We have not heard back yet. If we do, we will update this story.

There’s still a chance, at least, that D202 may reinstate the grant, if Cradle better explains what it does and what impact it is having.

“I’m not saying we won’t support this,” Parsons said, “but we should ask questions.”

Clearly, District 202 is rocking the Cradle.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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  1. Finally someone is questioning where our tax dollars are going We are running deficits in district 65. Let’s look at PEG and examine what a waste of money that program is

  2. Bravo. I wish the D65 school board had questioned and evaluated the much, much higher expense for months of security for former Supt. Horton. That money also could have done a lot.

  3. I heartily agree with this decision. C2C has been in existence for many years and, like so many other community collaboration efforts in the past, has accomplished very, very little.
    When it was first formed, I wanted to get a seat at the table, hoping that perhaps their announcement that this kind of collaboration was meaningfully different from others that had failed before and could actually bring about meaningful change, would turn out to be real.
    It took me months of effort to get that seat, which is in itself a sign of how non inclusive the process actually was. I worked on the Literacy Committee that focused on improving services to preschoolers and their families in the community, and we actually did do some good work.
    Sadly, the large “stakeholders” such as the school districts, never really meaningfully bought into the process. This is one of the ironies of Dist 202 pulling out because not much has happened.
    When our committee worked hard to put together a meaningful explanation of kindergarten readiness to communicate both to professionals and parents in the community, Dist 65 dragged its feet and never really got on board in a meaningful way to help us spread this important message.
    When we created and printed up a beautiful booklet of easy home activities parents of 0 to 5 year olds could do with their children to help them achieve developmental milestones and be ready for kindergarten, Dist 65 did virtually nothing to support us or help distribute them or inform parents about them…
    More importantly, when we agreed to use the District’s computer system to create a communication process for preschool teachers to communicate helpful information about incoming kindergarteners with the school principals and teachers, all with parents’ permission, of course, the District never really made an attempt to use this information. Principals didn’t encourage teachers to read it, teachers often didn’t realize the information was actually available to them, and all the work the preschool teachers had gone through to input this invaluable information, which could have helped many Evanston preschoolers actually succeed in their kindergarten year, went to waste. Shameful.
    I’ll never forget a meeting of the large group in which a new consultant team that had been hired presented how C2C was going to be more effective, and when someone on another committee brought up his concern about how Dist 202 had refused to share information about the numbers of teen parents attending the high school, they had no response. This was not a request for personal information.
    If a school district that is a “stakeholder” in community progress refuses to cooperate with members of the team they are a part of, not much progress will be made.
    This continues to be an ongoing, huge problem in Evanston. The large powers that be don’t want to share power, don’t want to share information, don’t want to incorporate or support projects that they have not specifically created themselves.
    That was supposed to be a major difference in how this type of community collaboration would work…that all the stakeholders would be supportive and on board to work together.
    Once again, that never happened. So while I agree with Dist 202’s decision at this point, after the Community Impact project has utterly failed, to withdraw funding, they need to acknowledge their role in bringing about this outcome.

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