The nation's public schools have been under attack over much of the past three decades. A commonly heard criticism is that school performance, as measured by students' standardized test scores, has stagnated or declined over the years. At the same time, schools have failed to close the gap in achievement between the lowest-performing and highest-performing students. This situation exists despite increased resources for public schools and attempts to allocate resources more equitably.
Dependence on state support has created a number of concerns for the nation's schools and school districts. School finance reforms have led to increased deci sionmaking at the state level regarding education at a time when governance re forms call for more local control. State decisionmaking, in turn, imposes con straints on local decisionmaking. Schools have become dependent on the state economy and must compete with other demands on state resources. In addition, state education funding over time has shifted toward a greater reliance on cate gorical (that is, restricted) funds and a lesser reliance on general-purpose (that is, flexible) funds.
Taken together, reforms in school finance and education governance have made securing private support for public education an important activity of many public schools and districts. While public schools and districts have always attracted private support, anecdotal reports and a limited body of documented research suggest they are now pursuing private support with increased sophistication and aggressiveness.
Current reports and research provide a limited accounting of private support of public education and no systematic framework for thinking about such support. This pilot study is designed to provide schools and school districts with informa tion on the types of public-private partnerships that have been developed and the mechanisms used to attract private resources.
In addition, we are interested in documenting the types of monetary and in-kind resources1 that are most likely to be available to schools and districts that have differing economic resources within their communities.____________________