Private Donations to Public Schools: The Latest Way to Undermine Funding Equity
School foundations are helping the "haves" get even more.
At 24, as a brand-new teacher looking for my first job, I went through the rigmarole of applications, interviews, and job fairs. My first offer came from Lake Oswego, a city I knew only by its reputation for affluence and racial homogeneity (whiteness). I had never visited, even though it was a mere 20-minute drive from Portland, Oregon, where I had lived most of my life. I took the job, a one-year, temporary position. I would be a “foundation teacher”: My salary was paid not out of the regular budget, but by the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation, a separate, private fundraising apparatus.
I would like to say that I was always enlightened enough to understand the implications of school foundations, but the truth is, at the time, I was just happy to have a job and didn’t pay much mind to where my paycheck was coming from.
Sixteen years later, I am still at Lake Oswego, no longer a foundation teacher, and now painfully aware of the insidious role school foundations play in perpetuating inequality in public education funding.
Anyone in education or interested in education policy has heard the claim “You can’t fix what’s wrong in education by throwing money at the problem.” Indeed, claims like this are made every legislative cycle as lawmakers wrangle over how much to budget for K–12 education and again during campaign season, when too many candidates jump on some version of the tax-cutting bandwagon.
But if more money is not a critical requirement for improving education, why have school foundations become so ubiquitous? According to Ashlyn Aiko Nelson and Beth Gazley, who published an investigation of these school funding nonprofits, school foundations have proliferated in the last decades, increasing threefold since the mid-1990s. So has the amount of money they are raising: School foundations and comparable organizations raised about $197 million in 1995; in 2010, the number had more than quadrupled to $880 million.
The Lake Oswego Schools Foundation raised roughly $1.5 million for the 2014–Private Donations to Public Schools: The Latest Way to Undermine Funding Equity | Alternet: