The influence of private contributions in public education: An examination of education foundations



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The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to examine the influence of private contributions from education foundations in public education. This study included an analysis of archival data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Texas Education Agency (TEA), and organizational websites from a purposeful sample of 256 Texas school districts identified as having a supporting education foundation with gross revenue of over $50,000. A purposeful sample of 15 district superintendents were also interviewed in an effort to provide more in-depth understanding of the perceptions regarding private contributions in public education and the influence of education foundations on their school districts. The quantitative data were analyzed using Pearson’s Product Moment Correlations (r) and Kruskal-Wallis test (χ2), while the qualitative data obtained from superintendent interviews were analyzed using an inductive coding process. Quantitative analysis indicated the amount of private revenue generated by education foundations is correlated most consistently with the resources already residing within the organization, school district, and community (i.e., organizational longevity, district size and location, and community wealth) rather than the support of government (i.e., public funding) or even key measures of the school district (i.e., accountability rating and racial/ethnic diversity). Qualitative analysis indicated most school districts seek external revenue to supplement district funding using common methods and strategies, including private revenue generated by education foundations; however, the majority of superintendents stated that private contributions are overall nominal and an insufficient substitution for funding provided by the government. On the other hand, the findings also demonstrated that these organizations and their efforts contribute nonfinancial benefits to school districts, including positive morale, community engagement, and advocacy. Lastly, the findings concluded that paid staff, strong board composition, district alignment, and superintendent involvement are key factors for successful education foundations.



education, public education, educational leadership, educational administration, nonprofit, fundraising, philanthropy, public school finance, public school foundation, education foundation, education policy studies