About Us: Our Commitment to Colorado Public Education

The Donnell-Kay Foundation is a private family foundation aiming to improve public education and drive systemic school reform in Colorado through research, creative dialogue and critical thinking.

It is the foundation’s goal to build a strong future in Colorado by providing a high quality education for all students. Our focus is funding systemic reform and state level policy in the areas of early childhood, K-12 and higher education.

Donnell-Kay provides operating and program dollars to innovative school and non-profit projects statewide, with a focus on metro Denver’s urban schools. Look to our “Grantees” section for stories from featured partners. The staff at Donnell-Kay also conducts research and publishes reports that address problems and investigate innovations in public education. Check out the “Our Work” page for details on our latest projects. Annually, DK spends about $1 million on grants, research and other education reform projects.

The Hot Lunch Speaker Series has been going strong for five years. It is an event in which Donnell-Kay has connected national education leaders with Colorado’s education community. Past speakers include Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers; Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder of Teach for America; John Danner, co-founder and CEO of Rocketship Education; Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University; and Mike Feinberg, Co-Founder of the Knowledge is Power Program Foundation. Go to the “Events” page for the most up-to-date information about our latest Hot Lunch speakers.

DK History

DK has provided seed grants for – and continues to support – a number of nonprofit groups. Get Smart Schools is building the leadership pipeline for new charter and autonomous schools. Colorado Succeeds is a group that connects the business community with the education world. And Chalkbeat Colorado (Formally Education News Colorado) is an online-only publication with a focus on in-depth education journalism.

DK has a long history of informing education policy in Colorado. The foundation launched the conversation around school autonomy, with the help Amy Anderson, which led to the 2008 Innovation Schools Act.

DK launched a statewide project in 2004 to assess the condition and funding of Colorado’s school buildings. The findings showed a serious need across the state and a large deficit in funds. The project led to the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program.

In 2007, the foundation convened the Trujillo Commission, a group of policy makers who helped establish online learning practices and policies in Colorado. DK has an ongoing interest in the performance of Denver Public Schools. Among the projects with the district, we started initial conversations around DPS’s complicated enrollment processes. That project turned into the new DPS SchoolChoice system, rolled out in partnership with the district, Get Smart Schools and several other non-profits.

The foundation has also given grants to forward-thinking school models, including the Odyssey School, STRIVE Preparatory Schools (formerly West Denver Prep), Venture Prep, the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST), and Rocky Mountain Prep.

DK started the Colorado Graduates Initiative after realizing the education community needed to come together and accelerate action towards reducing the state’s dropout rate. The effort is an ongoing one, connected with DK’s work around students who are off-track to graduation.

Creating healthy school lunches is another longtime priority for the foundation. Donnell-Kay helped bring Revolution Foods to Denver in 2009, a company that serves healthy, freshly prepared meals to students across the country.

Donnell-Kay operates as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. It was incorporated in 1965 through a trust by the Kay family.

The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals but does accept concept papers that address statewide educational policy issues.

The Donnell-Kay Foundation wants to build a strong future in Colorado by providing a high quality education for all students. We give operating and program dollars to innovative school and non-profit projects statewide, with a focus on metro Denver’s urban schools. The DK staff also conducts research and publishes reports that address problems and investigate innovations in public education. Donnell-Kay operates as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. It was incorporated in 1965 through a trust by the Kay family. The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals but does accept concept papers that address statewide educational policy issues.