Beyond Tiebout: Towards a Theory of Philanthropic Engagement in Education in Local Communities




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Philanthropy has been a central component of the American experiment since its inception, and philanthropic concern with education continues to be a central and accelerating theme among national and local philanthropies. Scholarly study of philanthropy in the context of education finance and student achievement is often limited to larger national foundations that attract public scrutiny, leaving a gap in understanding influential local philanthropic entities. This dissertation builds knowledge about local philanthropy by asking how philanthropic contributions influence school district budgets and student achievement, and how philanthropists approach their efforts to support and reform education. Through empirical analyses utilizing new data from the National Center for Education Statistics, and through structured interviews with philanthropists and philanthropic organizations who invest in education on a local scale, this dissertation finds that philanthropic contributions are correlated with financial “extras” and with long-term student achievement. Its core insight is the role of the relationship in mediating community consensus around educational needs, investment strategies, and accountability mechanisms, building towards a theory of how philanthropy engages in K-12 education at a local level.



Education, Finance