To national audiences, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is known as an influential education-policy think tank with a two-decades-long commitment to reforming elementary and secondary schools, particularly through the combination of higher standards and greater parental choice.
In Dayton, Ohio, however, our roots go deeper. Here, local leaders may know that Thomas B. Fordham was a prominent industrialist in the 1930s and 40s—the onetime head of GM’s Frigidaire division and a successful supplier of essential wartime materiel. They may also know that the Fordham Foundation—created by Fordham’s widow, Thelma Fordham Pruett, in 1959—made grants to support good works in Dayton and vicinity for almost four decades, until her passing in 1996.
In 1997, the trustees of the Fordham Foundation re-launched the organization with a focus on school reform, both nationally and in Dayton. Our work in the Gem City has centered on expanding education options for disadvantaged children. We played a central role in launching Parents Advancing Choice in Education (PACE), which spearheaded private-school choice for Dayton families and we have made many grants to education-related organizations. In 2005, we became a charter-school sponsor (aka “authorizer”). Our sponsorship operation, based in Dayton, today serves over 5,000 students in eleven schools statewide, including The Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) and Dayton Leadership Academies.