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.
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.
“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.