Urban school districts' management of business, foundation, and private funding sources

Candy Lee, University of Pennsylvania


American schools have a long history of receiving capital from external sources, from early philanthropists and businesses to modern-day benefactors, many of whom have sought to create change by underwriting initiatives in urban school districts. The research reported here addressed the question of how urban school districts manage external capital, which represents only 1% or less of their budgets but is often the anticipated means to create change. There was little published research on the topic. In-depth interviews or surveys were conducted with leaders from 16 urban school districts, including 14 superintendents and 15 cabinet level officers, on their policies and practices in acquiring and managing external capital from private or foundation sources. An advance survey sent to 12 districts, containing questions closely related to those of the interviews, allowed for the development of aggregate responses. Further examination of the districts' documents, and interviews with members of the superintendents' staff, provided more research data. Interviews were also conducted with 16 leaders of local foundations, national foundations, and business partners. The research, which closed a gap in the literature, revealed a lack of standard practices for districts to use when managing external resources. The researcher found that the anticipation of external capital was prominent in the superintendents' strategy for underwriting reforms; districts established an office or a cabinet position for partnerships. Insights into districts' management of external funding were gleaned by an examination of initiation of the funding, management and accountability for the dollars, equity access to money, the role of the local intermediary and national foundation, and the role of businesses. The tension in successful partnerships was experienced by both partners in the donor-district relationship. Resource management and the competencies required for successful partnerships were considered. Some effective practices have been identified in a Toolkit for the districts. Recommendations in the Toolkit include opportunities for better partnerships for urban school districts working with external funders.

Subject Area

Education finance|School administration

Recommended Citation

Lee, Candy, "Urban school districts' management of business, foundation, and private funding sources" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3310488.