Private Money to Public Schools
Making it Count: A Guide to High-Impact Education Philanthropy
by Kelly Amis ,Chester E. Finn, Jr., Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, September 1, 2001.
Charitable giving in the U.S. is at an all-time high, as is the
public's concern with the state of our K-12 education system. This
guide provides practical advice for the philanthropist who is fed up
with the status quo and eager to support effective education reforms.
"Making it Count" reviews the state of U.S. public education,
examines different ways that philanthropists are trying to improve
it, explains why some strategies work better than others, and profiles a
number of education philanthropists.
Private Giving to Public Schools: Does it Work?
by David Salisbury, July 19, 2002.
"This week, three major charitable foundations announced that they
would no longer provide grants to Pittsburgh public schools. The
Pittsburgh, Heinz, and Grable Foundations have made a responsible
decision in the face of the Pittsburgh Public School system's
continued failure to improve. In retrospect, failure should be no
surprise. Other foundations and individuals that have tried to help
public schools with private funds have been similarly frustrated and
Businesses Not Feeling So Charitable Toward Schools
by Del Jones, USA Today, September 17, 2002.
"Many businesses and corporate foundations say they have grown so
frustrated with the pace of public education reform that they are
ready to cut back on contributions to public schools.
These businesses saw themselves as the cavalry in the 1990s, riding
to the rescue and injecting public schools with business practices of
standards and accountability. Now those companies, after giving
billions of dollars to public schools over the last decade, are
falling back on perhaps the first rule of business: Don't throw good
money after bad. ...
State Farm Insurance CEO Edward Rust, an outspoken executive on education for years, says more money won't solve the problem. Throwing money at the worst schools only rewards poor performance, he says, and the focus must be shifted from 'inputs to outcomes.'"
- Seven Studies in Education Philanthropy:
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation asked experts to share their knowledge
and ideas on topics related to effective education philanthropy.
Here are seven papers that answer some of philanthropists' most
important questions in the education reform arena:
Can Philanthropy Fix Our Schools?
Appraising Walter Annenberg's $500 Million Gift to Public Education
by Raymond Domanico, Chester E. Finn, Jr., Carol Innerst, Marci Kanstoroom and Alexander Russo,
April 1, 2000.
According to this study, Ambassador Annenberg's gift has left only
small footprints on the urban school systems it set out to reform.
Good intentions and a generous checkbook were not enough to transform
troubled urban schools. This report includes case studies of New York
(by Raymond Domanico), Chicago (by Alexander Russo) and Philadelphia
(by Carol Innerst) and an afterword by Chester E.Finn Jr. and Marci
From Frontline Leader to Rearguard Action: The Chicago Annenberg Challenge
by Alexander Russo. This is a chapter of particular local interest
taken from the above report, Can Philanthropy Fix Our Schools?
Giving it Away: An Open Letter to Bill Gates
by Chester E. Finn, Jr.
January 1, 1998.
The Evolution of the New American Schools, by Jeffrey Mirel, October 2001.
In July 1991, the New American Schools Development
Corporation was launched with the help of both government and private funds, and
charged with encouraging innovative ideas for a new generation of schools.
In this vivid report, Jeffrey Mirel charts how the good intent of the NAS became bogged
down in bureaucracy.
- There are many
more articles on philanthropy available from the Fordham Foundation
- DonorsChoose: a program to send more money to the government
DonorsChoose is an organization that starts off with a nice-sounding premise --
let teachers post projects for which which they'd
like donations. But step back a bit and the premise falls apart.
For example, let's look at some requests from Chicago.
A teacher in a school in the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago
wants $372 to buy calculators for all of her students in her class
that uses the dreaded
Everyday Math curriculum.
Right away, that's a terrible idea, and we think that
the donations would be much better spent on buying
some math worksheet books, or Singapore Math
books for the kids to make up for what they won't learn with
Another teacher, in the Chatham neighborhood,
says "Many of the students I teach read far below their grade level" but what she wants
is $260 to buy books at a low reading level so she can teach them "reading strategies".
Sounds like yet another Illinois school where whole language is crippling kids that
desperately need phonics instruction, not "strategies".
(See more here.)
But deeper than all that, we have to wonder why do these
government-operated schools need more money? The Chicago Public Schools system
already spends $11,333 per child per year (as of 2008), a generous amount.
(See here for details.) Clearly, what they need
isn't money. What these kids need is for their parents to be empowered to get
those kids to schools that see them as the priority, not the bureaucracy.
What about schools that really need money? Does DonorsChoose help out teachers
in struggling private schools that are working hard to teach kids, often with
a budget half of that provided to the CPS? The answer is no. DonorsChoose flatly
refuses to have anything to do with anything other than government schools.
It seems that according to DonorsChoose, parents can't choose, so donors can't choose either.
(Note: The work of DonorsChoose to encourage donations to the government
-- but explicitly not to private schools -- is sponsored in part by grants
from Crate & Barrel, Budget Rent-A-Car, and in Illinois by Lehman Brothers.)