Blog: The Educated Reporter

Private Money for Public Schools: A Good Read From the New Yorker

We hear a lot about the need for more community involvement in schools, and the New Yorker has a thoughtful blog post on the influence of private money in public education.

Writer Matthew McKnight looks at the support the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter school network receives from private donors such as the Walton Family Foundation. McKnight notes, correctly, that there’s no realistic way to scale KIPP to serve as many students who might benefit from the program, which has a remarkable academic track record.

McKnight writes that “economic inequality reverberates through the American educational system … The Walton Family Foundation donation aims to increase capacity, which may end up being wonderful for future K.I.P.P. students. But what is America to do with the other children?”

When I read stories like this, I think about Horace Mann’s reports to the Massachusetts State Board of Education back in the 1830’s and 1840’s. He wrote in one report that he disliked “private academies” because they had the potential to siphon off the most talented students and their engaged and interested parents. Mann also believed that a strong system of public schools was the cornerstone of the (relatively) young Republic, and that successful individuals had an obligation to support those efforts.

While we’re on the subject of public-private partnerships, I suggest you take a look at Communities in Schools. If you’re not already familiar with the organization, you should be. Chances are the group is at work in your state, if not your local district.

A huge element of the federal Investment in Innovation Fund (known as the I3 program) is finding community support for educational endeavors. The list of top-ranked applicants was recently posted. Check here to see if a team in your area made the list.