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Private Contributions to Schools

Public schools in the United States have long relied on private contributions to augment school resources. These private contributions include both in-kind contributions, such as donations of goods and services, and monetary contributions, such as direct financial donations. Public education is by definition maintained at public expense, through federal, state, and local tax revenues, for all children without charge. At the same time, school systems in recent decades have been pursuing private contributions with increased sophistication and purpose. As documented by Ron Zimmer and colleagues, the impetus for greater levels of private support comes largely from the convergence of changes in states’ school finance systems and state budget environments that have threatened K-12 spending.

Since the 1970s, a majority of states have faced legal challenges to ...

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