NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Education Drives Away Business Help

September 18, 2002

In a valiant attempt to become part of the solution to the nation's failing public education system, business people and corporate foundations gave billions of dollars -- as well as their time and expertise -- to public schools in the 1990s. They hoped to inject business practices of standards and accountability into the system.

Now they are beginning to draw back, relying on perhaps the first premise of business: "Don't throw good money after bad." They are understandably disillusioned with the scanty positive results their money has bought.

  • Corporate foundations alone boosted contributions to K-12 education by about 350 percent from 1990 to 2000.
  • That constituted a jump from $18 million to $81 million, according to the Foundation Center.
  • But having met disappointment, many contributors say corporate and foundation money should be pulled from public education and redirected toward implementation of vouchers and other forms of competition.
  • Corporate money accounts for about 1 percent of the $370 billion spent on public education each year.

Contributors cite such obstacles as feuding school-board members, dysfunctional school districts, superintendents who allow problems to fester unsolved, results promised but never verified and donations going to reward poor performance.

Many sum up their unhappy experiences with public education by warning that the system itself is broken.

Source: Del Jones, "Businesses Not Feeling So Charitable Toward Schools," USA Today, September 18, 2002.

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