Abstract

abstract:

In California, a half century after the landmark Serrano v. Priest decision overturning the state's public school finance system because of the inequality between the state's school districts, a significant amount of wealth-based inequality in per-pupil expenditures continues to exist. One of the sources of this inequality is the result of Californians having formed thousands of nonprofit organizations that raise additional money for their schools and school districts by collecting private contributions. This study makes use of a new dataset that is the most extensive census to date of nonprofits collecting private contributions for California public schools. The results of our analyses indicate high-income districts and those with large shares of Democratic registrants benefit from substantially larger amounts of private contributions. The wealthiest 10 percent of school districts receive an average of over $400 per pupil in private contributions, while the bottom 50 percent of school districts receive less than an average of $50 per student. These findings raise important questions about the effective distribution of private contributions, as well as the democratic principles of allowing education finance to be determined by private donors.

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