Civic Center Becomes Kids' Bowling Alley for The Day

Categories: Education
Matt Smith
Now if only public bowling were available inside City Hall.
Jumpstart, a nonprofit that places college student instructors in lower-income preschools, took over San Francisco's Civic Center Thursday, setting up outdoor bowling and other games and giving nursery school children their first shot at cutting class.

As California schools prepare for the shock of further budget cuts, private nonprofits such as Jumpstart are the education world's bright spot -- financially speaking.

According to IRS records, Jumpstart is growing at an annual rate of between $500,000 and $1 million. By 2009, it was reporting nearly $15 million in revenues.

As public money for schools declines, donors with their own agendas on education  have been opening their wallets. The downfall of public schools and the growth of private nonprofit education corporations has raised legitimate concerns about transparency, accountability, and the influence of such private donors.

Matt Smith
Ceyoni, age 5, prepares to knock down some pins.
The 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman, which indicated that private charter schools were the answer to the public-school crisis, has only whetted billionaires' appetite to fund nonprofits pushing for school reform.

Waiting for Superman has been debunked as a piece of journalistic misfeasance that distorted data to perpetuate the falsehood that nonprofits are better at educating students than public schools.

But that's not to suggest that organizations like Jumpstart are doing anything wrong. Far from it.

Matt Smith
Chris Padula says preschool kids need to get crackin'.
Chris Padula, the group's western region executive director, says he recruits college students to work with preschoolers, especially in poor neighborhoods like Hunters Point, to help prepare them for kindergarten.

Without help, "many will never catch up by third grade," Padula says.

But on Thursday, the national debate over education was sidelined while kids just had fun working on their bowling scores.

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