CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Public Goods, Private Money: The Role Of Private Contributions In Public School Districts

Lucas R. Salzman, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Marc Meredith

Date of this Version: 01 January 2014



In 1983, A Nation at Risk warned America of a major problem affecting its future—the declining quality of its public education system. Over the years that followed, education reform predominantly focused on fixing the system to provide quality education for all students. A number of school district initiated public policy reforms, such as mayoral control, that many thought would improve educational quality. Some school districts also increasingly rely on donations from private organization to help fund failing schools. This study identifies a number of factors that help explain this variation in the amount of philanthropic funding received by school districts. I find that districts with mayoral control raise substantially more private funds than districts with traditional elected school boards. The level of wealth in a district also has a significant effect on the amount of private revenue per student. Interviews with district officials also revealed that districts with a strong vision coupled with competent leadership and efficient processes are more successful in these fundraising efforts. The presence of philanthropy has been solidified in the education sector, as districts move towards obtaining private money to continue providing a public good. Inherent in this shift is the emergence of new actors and stakeholders invested in the educational outcomes of American schools.

Suggested Citation

Salzman, Lucas R., "Public Goods, Private Money: The Role Of Private Contributions In Public School Districts" 01 January 2014. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 21 May 2014




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