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Press Release

3 in 10 Americans are worried their children will drop out of school

United Way Worldwide Announces Major Commitment to Education in Response to National Report on Education

Alexandria, VA– When schools improve, communities improve. That is a primary finding in a report by United Way Worldwide, the nation’s largest, privately-funded nonprofit. Voices for the Common Good: America Speaks Out on Education will be presented today at a National Education Town Hall in Washington, DC. Moderated by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, the event – both live and online – will address the challenges we face in preparing our children for success.

Key leaders will participate, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council; Former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings; and Co-chair of America’s Promise Alma Powell.

In response to the report findings, United Way will announce a commitment to recruit one million volunteer readers, tutors and mentors for education.  Sign up to volunteer.

“Few issues are as important as the national debate on our education systems, yet the voices of everyday people haven’t been part of the conversation,” said Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide.  “United Way has been listening to the concerns of Americans across the country, and what we’re hearing is that they care deeply about the success of the schools and young people in their communities, and they want to be involved.”

Voices for the Common Good: America Speaks Out on Education unveils the collective findings from a nationwide listening tour, a national telephone survey and numerous focus groups that identify concerns within our education system, as well as ideas for short- and long-term solutions. Key findings of the report include:

  • 29 percent of Americans polled are concerned that their children will drop out of school.
  • Americans don’t feel the problems of young people and education start or stop at the doorsteps of public schools.
  • People believe that when you improve schools, you improve communities.
  • Instilling values is just as important to people as academics.
  • People feel disconnected from schools.
  • Americans want to do something that helps make a difference, but they don’t know how.
  • Americans want to do something that helps make a difference, but they don’t know how.

“I’m proud to announce that United Way Women’s Leadership Council (WLC), a powerful network of nearly 50,000 women in 120 communities across the country, has stepped up to take on United Way’s challenge,” stated Ann Stallard, United Way U.S.A. board chair.  “These women are committed to a focus on early grade literacy and to recruiting 100,000 volunteers toward the goal of one million.”

Other participants at the National Education Town Hall include Margaret McKenna, president of Walmart Foundation; Barry Salzberg, chief executive officer of Deloitte LLP; Gregory Taylor, vice president of program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Nnamdi Asomugha, NFL cornerback and founder, Asomugha College Tour for Scholars; and Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Additionally, Cornell Belcher of the national polling firm Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies, as well as Rich Harwood, president and founder of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, are sharing more details of the report at the Town Hall and will be on hand to answer questions. Belcher’s firm conducted the national poll and Harwood’s organization developed the process used in community conversation throughout the country.

In 2008, United Way announced a goal to cut by half the number of young people who drop out of high school by 2018. In the fall of 2010, United Ways around the country hosted “community conversations,” listening to everyday Americans to elicit ideas and ways to improve not only our public schools, but our communities at-large so that children of all economic backgrounds have the chance to succeed.

Major sponsorship for the report and Town Hall is provided by the Walmart Foundation, Deloitte and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  Microsoft Corporation donated the software, expertise and funds to create the online aspects of the Town Hall.  Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation contributed the report's foreword.

"Voices for the Common Good tells us that all Americans want the best for their children, especially their children’s education, regardless of their background or life circumstances," said Speirn. “We believe that supporting vulnerable children and their families through education, health and well-being and economic security will have the greatest impact on strengthening communities, with notably better outcomes.”

To access the full report, please visit The National Education Town Hall will be streamed live on the web at  To see educational outcomes and how they affect other conditions in your community, see the Common Good Forecaster™, a web-based tool created by United Way and the American Human Development Project (AHDP).