Many American public school districts are searching high and low for additional funding. It seems inevitable that they will ask alumni for donations, as private institutions do. This practice isn't new, but it doesn't garner much attention in the public eye – at least, not compared to the high-profile capital campaigns of private institutions of higher education.
I am guessing we'll hear more about it soon. A recent blog posting from Newark (New Jersey) Star-Ledger columnist Mark Di Ionno highlighted one example of local public school fundraising:
And this isn't a bake sale or a car wash. The district is talking about raising funds for endowment, as a private institution would do – and they are doing it campaign-style, with a quiet phase that has generated US$3.5 million of a planned US$5 million goal by school-year end, according to Di Ionno's article.
The readers' comments in response to the story raise a number of good questions (in classic Internet flame-bait and trolling fashion).
- Is private fundraising warranted if local tax-payers think administrators are overpaid?
- Will this practice widen the gap between wealthy towns and lower-income areas?
- Can public elementary and secondary education "compete" with colleges and universities for scarce private support from overlapping populations?
Public school systems can certainly increase individual giving by launching strategies (and training and assigning staff) to pursue it. But many questions remain, such as how much money is out there for savvy, assertive districts, and is endowment the right form of support to pursue? And what are the districts prepared to stop doing to free up resources for development?
Share what you know and think, in the Comments.