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Volume 24, Number 5
September/October 2008

Getting and Spending

Schools and districts share lessons on the effective uses of philanthropy


In 2001, the Carnegie Corporation of New York teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to invest a combined $60 million in high school reform; earlier this year, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced a $23.5 million grant to support three charter school organizations in Los Angeles; and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation decided to give the Dallas Independent School District $5 million to assist with the collection of student and teacher data.

These donations represent a very small sample of the private funding that goes into public schools. A mere snapshot, this list highlights the dollar amounts now available to at least some public schools; the people, foundations, and corporations behind the money; and the kinds of educational programs they are supporting.

The amount of private money going into public education has been on the rise since A Nation at Risk declared in 1983 that the educational standards of American schoolchildren were alarmingly low and threatened the nation’s competitive edge. Regardless of the denomination—$1,000, $50,000, or $30 million—the grant money available to public schools is expected to grow for years to come. The challenge facing most school districts is not only how to get this money, but how to use it effectively.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Boston Plan for Excellence:

Chattanooga-Hamilton County Public Education Foundation:

E. City. Resourceful Leadership: Tradeoffs and Tough Decisions on the Road to School Improvement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2008.

F. M. Hess. With the Best of Intentions: How Philanthrophy Is Reshaping K–12 Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2005.

SchoolGrants newsletter: