In remarks made at the New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum, Bloomberg said the foundation's education strategy is premised on three main ideas — education is primarily a local issue, so investments should be made in cities and states; education is a political issue, so investing in advocacy and electoral campaigns is important; and education is a polarizing issue, so people need to move past ideological arguments and false choices and focus on what works instead. One of those false choices, according to Bloomberg, is between the proposition that every student should attend a four-year college and the argument that a college education is overrated and schools should focus on preparing students for well-paid careers that don't require a four-year degree.
"The truth is: This is not an either/or situation," said Bloomberg. "We need to do both: Put more focus on college and careers, so that students have a real choice. Yet right now, we're not doing either one very well....So on the one hand, as evidenced by the low college graduation rate, we are not preparing high school graduates for success in college, and on the other, we effectively treat non-college bound students as second-class citizens, giving them no preparation for their next steps in life."
To address the need to improve college-readiness, Bloomberg Philanthropies supports leaders who are open to new approaches that strengthen both college and career tracks. That requires improving academic achievement in the lower grades by boosting teacher quality, accountability, and salaries, and by expanding school choice, as Bloomberg sought to do during his tenure as New York City mayor. In addition, high-achieving students from low-income families who are college-ready — half of whom don't even apply to selective colleges today — must be better supported. "If we want to stop intergenerational poverty, we have to start by helping more of those deserving kids go to good colleges," said Bloomberg.
To that end, Bloomberg Philanthropies has supported the American Talent Initiative, a coalition launched in 2016 of top colleges and universities working to enroll an additional fifty thousand low- and moderate-income students by 2025, as well as its own CollegePoint initiative, which uses virtual advising to guide high-achieving low- to moderate-income students through the college admissions process.
And to improve vocational education and reduce dropout rates, Bloomberg called for more public-private investment in schools that focus on a particular industry, as he did as mayor.
"Programs like Career Wise in Denver, Youth Force in New Orleans, and Career Pathways in Delaware are all public-private partnerships based on the same principle," said Bloomberg. "Employers provide education and skill development in a wide variety of fields — and in exchange, they get access to a pipeline of future workers."