Private Money/Public Schools: Early Evidence on Private and Non-Traditional Support for New York City Public Schools

Schwartz, A.E., Bel Hadj Amor, H. & Fruchter, N.
in Fiscal Issues in Urban Schools, Research in Education Fiscal Policy and Practice: Volume One, Christopher Roellke and Jennifer King Rice, editors. Information Age Publishing.

The use of private money to support public schools in New York City captured the attention of the public in 1997, as parents in a Greenwich Village elementary school tried to raise private salary funds to prevent one of their teachers from being reassigned. While some heralded the parents for their commitment to their children's education and their willingness to fight to improve their public school, others lamented the action, citing concerns for funding equity between more affluent schools and economically disadvantaged schools. In the end, the Chancellor decided to maintain the teacher in question, but not to accept the privately-raised revenues out of a concern for setting a precedent for allowing parents to fund "core functions" rather than "enrichment" programs. Clearly, this concern stemmed, at least in part, from an underlying worry that allowing schools to seek and accept privately-raised revenues would pose a threat to the equity of schooling in New York City. Would accepting privately-raised money lead schools serving higher income students to have better funding (or better teachers, smaller classes, for example) than those serving lower income students? At the same time, privately-raised resources may also present efficiency concerns. Would curricula or programmatic offerings be chosen based upon the availability of outside funding, rather than the particular needs of the students? This paper explores both the equity and efficiency issues surrounding the use of privately-raised revenues to support public schools, and provides some evidence on the distribution of privately-raised support across public schools in New York City.