Giving Compass' Take:

• John Bailey explains how opportunity zones can be used to create education opportunities for communities in need. 

• What are the needs of opportunity zones near you? How does education play into long-term community success? 

• Learn about supporting success in opportunity zones

Education and workforce institutions are the backbone of most communities. If the goal of the Opportunity Zones program is to empower residents, then investing in educational opportunities will deliver powerful results for future generations and future success.

Early-childhood and afterschool care

Qualified Opportunity Funds could be used to purchase or build new facilities or rehabilitate existing ones for providers. The city of Dayton, Ohio, for example, is pitching investors the chance to build a new public library and afterschool community center. Investments could even finance small businesses operating tutoring or early care programs.

Elementary and secondary schools

School districts in these low-wealth areas could tap into Qualified Opportunity Funds to improve their buildings. To deliver these modern schools, developers and a school district could form a public-private partnership using ground leases to transfer building ownership to private investors, while leaving the local school district in control of ongoing operations. The investment from a Qualified Opportunity Fund could then finance the renovations, with ownership returning to the district at the end of the term. This approach can be used by district schools, charter schools, and private schools.

Charter schools

Developers can also include charters or private schools in mixed-used properties built using Opportunity Funds. Starwood Capital Group, for example, announced a development in the South Bronx that will be home to Zeta Charter School, along with retail and apartment units.

Colleges and universities

Nearly every governor designated Opportunity Zones near universities and research institutions, creating the potential for commercializing research, supporting technology transfer, incubating student startups, and expanding student housing. Universities can serve as important anchor institutions in facilitating community planning. Arizona State University and the University of Delaware are already playing this role by leveraging their faculty, research, and convening abilities to assist communities with planning and development.

Workforce-training programs

Communities have to create workforce-development programs to give residents the skills needed for new jobs—and to attract business development from companies that require those skills. Governor Larry Hogan, for example, is targeting state job-training funds in Maryland Opportunity Zones.


Opportunity Zones give investors the chance to add Qualified Opportunity Funds to their portfolios and thereby support overlooked entrepreneurs in distressed communities. Hypothesis Studios, for example, is searching for mission-driven founders in Opportunity Zones who are trying to make an impact in sectors including healthcare technology, education technology, agricultural, and the Internet of Things. Modeled after the famous Edison Labs, Hall Labs in Utah has 25 companies and employs more than 200 engineers, scientists, and specialists. Hall Venture Partners is launching an Opportunity Fund, giving investors the chance to participate.

This same approach could be used by education investors to attract private capital to the launch and growth of education and workforce solutions. It could also be used to help target underserved populations, such as minority or female entrepreneurs.

Read the full article about opportunity zones and education opportunity by John Bailey at Education Next.