Private Contributions and Public School Resources
In the wake of school finance reforms that limit local tax revenue and, more recently, state budget cuts that have threatened K-12 education spending, an increasing number of schools and school districts have appealed to parents and communities for voluntary contributions to augment school resources. Of course, not all schools benefit equally from these contributions leading to a common concern that voluntary contributions create inequities in school funding across communities. In this paper we examine the size and distribution of voluntary contributions to California’s K-12 public schools in 2001. In addition, we examine how contributions have affected the distribution of resources across schools. Our results indicate that while some schools have been quite successful in raising voluntary contributions, overall, contributions have not led to large inequities in the distribution of resources among high- and low-income schools. Specifically, schools raising particularly high levels of contributions, over $500 per pupil, do tend to have more resources, but these schools are rare and very small. Over ninety-nine percent of California elementary students attend schools where contributions have almost no effect on inputs.
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