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Sunday, December 4, 2011

GiftED: Private Money, Public Schools

Susan Sawyers


GiftED: Private Money, Public School

It's well known that private entities, including the Broad, Gates and the Walton Family foundations, fund public education initiatives and reforms. "Given the scale and scope of the largess, some worry that the [Gates] foundation's assertive philanthropy is squelching independent thought," wrote Sam Dillon for the New York Times in May. Nonetheless, for their beneficence they are granted tax-free status, from one year to the next, as long as they distribute income for charitable purposes according to the IRS guidelines. In the case of a private foundation, they are required to pay out five percent of their assets each year. But the guidelines also stipulate that a foundation may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities. "Since income inequality is at an all time high," said Rob Reich, associate professor and co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University, speaking to a group of education reporters at Columbia University last May, "this is the moment where private influence is having its greatest effect."
With the season of giving and receiving is upon us, I've rounded up a few foundation/education stories. The first and second links are about influence. Note that the last three stories pretty much have the same headlines. As does this post.
Education Group Tries to Rebound After Diatribe: the New York Times
"...Stand for Children's clout capsized in an Aspen, Colo., conference room in June when its founder, Jonah Edelman, was videotaped describing the group's use of money and prowess to insert itself into the legislative process. In doing so, Mr. Edelman, the son of prominent Washington social activists, committed one of Springfield's greatest sins: he told."
ZOOM AHEAD to 16:44 on the video to cut to Edelman's being "blunt."

Policy-making billionaires: the New York Times
"...some of the biggest advocates for charter schools, including the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation of Eli and Edythe Broad, shifted gears several years ago and began pouring billions of dollars into advocacy at the federal, state and local levels. One result: The Obama administration's $4.3 billion 'Race to the Top' grant program, whose rules prohibited states from limiting the number of charter schools."
Private Money for Public Education: The New Yorker
"...economic inequality reverberates through the American educational system."
Public schools, private donations: Los Angeles Times
"The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is trying to balance parental donations with the need for equal education opportunities for all."
Philanthropy and Schools, by Heather Zavadsky: Education Week
"Philanthropies play a valuable and innovative role in schools, particularly in tight budget times, says an insider."
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