Unequitable Private Money in Public Schools

Posted by New York Times on November 3, 2014

What price fundraising drives?

From bake sales to gala auctions, private groups are raising increasing amounts of money for public schools in wealthier communities, spurring inequities, writes Motoko Rich in The New York Times. A new study in Education Finance and Policy finds that nonprofits of parents and community leaders tripled in number and quadrupled dollars generated between 1995 and 2010 — $880 million in 2010, up from $197 million in 1995. Their expansion stems from the fact that most states now have funding formulas capping or redirecting local property taxes to state coffers in an effort to equalize district funding. Communities that used to raise property taxes have found other ways to funnel money to local schools. Money raised by private groups is less than one percent of total spending on education by federal, state, and local governments; spread over all students enrolled in public schools nationally, the amount per pupil would be $28. In actuality, some communities raise four figures per student, and philanthropic fundraising is unregulated and tax-deductible for donors. Some, like Rob Reich of Stanford University, worry that the energy parents expend fundraising for individual schools “comes at the potential expense of their political engagement on a broader basis to actually get public dollars to be enough for all kids.”


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