A local nonprofit plans to raise $10 million to improve the quality of early childhood education in the District, mostly by bolstering training for teachers and principals at schools in needy neighborhoods.

Fight for Children announced the effort Wednesday at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School.


The organization expects to partner with two existing teacher-training programs — the Capital Teaching Residency, a local program run by E.L. Haynes, and KIPP, and the Baltimore-based Urban Teacher Center.

Two D.C. schools have already signed up for training that will start in 2013: Tree of Life Public Charter School in Northeast and Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School in Southeast. Over the next five years, Fight for Children hopes to reach up to 40 DCPS and charter schools.

The organization is perhaps best known as a booster of Washington’s charter schools and voucher program. But in recent years it has directed more of its energies toward strengthening child care, preschool and other early childhood programs.

“The city has done a great job of increasing access to early childhood education for all D.C. residents and should be commended,” said Michela English, the nonprofit’s president and chief executive, in an statement.

“The challenge is that the quality of programs in D.C. remains mixed, and all the research says a high quality preschool experience is critical to a child’s success in elementary school and beyond.”

Fight for Children was founded by philanthropist Joseph E. Robert Jr., who died last year of brain cancer at age 59.

Raul Fernandez,a friend of Robert’s and co-owner of the Washington Capitals, Mystics and Wizards, now leads the charity as chairman of its board.

Fernandez and two other board members, Fred Schaufeld and Chuck Kuhn, along with the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — whose ambassador also was a friend of Robert's -- have launched the fundraising drive with a combined contribution of $1.6 million.