Flint, MI— The Mott Foundation reversed the decision to freeze grants to Flint Schools and has committed $7 million for the 2021-2022 school year to fund critical programs offered by YouthQuest and The Crim Fitness Foundation.
“While I always strive to do my best, I am human. I regret pausing the grants that support these programs,” President and CEO of the Mott Foundation Ridgway White said in a statement July 22.
YouthQuest offers after school programs to Flint students and The Crim Fitness Foundation provides community education support to the district. Following news of the freeze, over 100 community members attended a board meeting July 21 to express their opposition to White’s decision.
“We have students, we don’t know if they’re eating at night. That last meal from YouthQuest could be their only meal to keep them from being abused and hurt, because they go home and they go to bed and they say, ‘I got tomorrow morning,’” an attendance clerk at Brownell STEM Academy told board members.
White said he apologizes for causing strife in the community.
“To the children and families who rely on these programs, the staff and volunteers who support Flint kids, and the community, I apologize for creating this instability,” he said. “It was heartening to see the outpouring of support for these programs at Wednesday night’s school board meeting.”
The funding freeze came after the Board of Education voted to bar Superintendent Anita Steward from speaking with community partners and foundations without the presence of the board president or their designee, citing a lack of transparency by administration.
White wrote a formal letter to Board President Carol McIntosh July 16 urging Flint Schools to “communicate and partner” with them and reverse the decision.
During the July 21 meeting, President Carol McIntosh and Treasurer Laura MacIntyre defended the decision.
“For me, this is not political. For me, this is not personal. This is a public service,” McIntosh said, adding that the board never said they would turn down funding, but want transparent information. “I have no quarrel with Mott or anybody else who wants to give us a fair and equitable deal. But I will not vote blindly on anything for anybody.”
MacIntyre said White was attempting to manipulate the board by pulling funds.
“Ridgway White and the Mott Foundation is unilaterally making a coercive move to strongarm this board and this district to relinquish their autonomy and bypass the board’s bylaws and the democratic process,” she said. “I implore the Mott Foundation to act like a community partner, not a colonial overseer.”
In his statement, White said there is nothing more important to the Mott Foundation than to support efforts that promote a “just, equitable and sustainable society.”
White said he hopes to continue working with the district.
“We also remain committed to working with Flint Community Schools and the Board of Education, and we would welcome the chance to resume a dialogue around creating a future that is bright for all Flint kids,” he said.
Students will return to school Aug. 4. Board members did not say if they will meet with White for further discussions.