During the next 18 months or so, officials of the Los Altos-based Packard Foundation will decide how to distribute grant money generated by the $4.4-billion gift from the late industrialist David Packard. Early indications are that a considerable chunk of the enormous grant will go to education. That should provide a mustn't-miss opportunity for California's public schools, including the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Packard, the co-founder and chairman emeritus of the high-technology giant Hewlett-Packard Co., died last month at 83. When his transfer of Hewlett-Packard stock occurs, the Packard Foundation's assets are expected to be about $7 billion, second in the United States only to the Ford Foundation.
Since its creation in 1964, the Packard Foundation has been a supporter of the arts, community organizations, conservation efforts, education, health care, population study and science. It has handed out $461 million over that time and plans to award $100 million more this year.
In education, most Packard Foundation grants are targeted on math and science programs in higher education. But K-12 schools are receiving a growing share. Foundation guidelines put a special emphasis on helping schools that serve minority, non-English-speaking and low-income communities.
Past foundation efforts have been concentrated in Northern California. But that shouldn't discourage LAUSD officials from acting. Grant proposals should be lined up and officials prepared to go after the money, even if it has strings attached. Certainly the fund's trustees had in mind schools like many in Southern California when they set their grant priorities. The criteria seem almost ready-made for Los Angeles. The opportunity is in place. The LAUSD must act without hesitation. David Packard would have been disappointed with anything less.