What We Currently Know About Private
Support of Public Education
Although the research literature has grown in recent years, most of what we know about private support of public education comes from anecdotal reports generated by the news media. Over the past decade, newspapers across the country have documented volunteer efforts and covered stories on districts forming independent local education foundations. Most of this coverage consists of reports on the various activities that take place at certain schools or districts and their successful efforts.1 The recent research literature, on the other hand, has focused primarily on monetary support raised by local education foundations and other school-based organizations.
In this chapter, we highlight what the literature has told us about private support for public education. We first discuss some of the historical and recent trends that are creating the current impetus for private support. We then discuss theories on why people and organizations give. Next, we describe the literature related to the three general questions surrounding our research: (1) Who are the givers; (2) how do they attract private support; and (3) what do they give and for what purpose? These three questions serve to describe the flow of gift-giving from donors to the end users of gifts, and serve as the basis for the analyses discussed in later chapters of this report.
Private support of public schools is not a new development. Schools and school districts have long relied on private monetary and in-kind support, in addition to federal, state, and local tax revenues. PTAs, classroom volunteers, booster clubs, and school-business relationships, for example, have traditionally been associ ated with public schools. Yet, recent media accounts and a handful of research studies suggest that the schools and school districts are pursuing private support with increased sophistication and aggressiveness.
The impetus for greater levels of private support comes largely from the conver gence of changes in the states' school finance systems and changes in school____________________