Idaho Gives Most of Its Charitable Dollars to Education

This article appeared in the August 7th Idaho Statesman (but I found it via Crosscuts, the on-line magazine).

"According to Philanthropy Northwest's Northwest Giving Profile 2006, 69 percent of charitable dollars in Idaho go to education, versus 16 percent in Washington, 24 percent in Oregon and 23 percent nationally."

In explanation the article says:

"Both trends may signal that charitable giving in Idaho is a "place-based" undertaking and that givers tend to know their beneficiaries — and beneficiaries' needs — from the ground up.

This sensibility contrasts with a state like Washington, where the technology sector and powerful, rather new foundations like Starbucks, Gates and others have given philanthropy a global character."

This is an interesting subject as one SB candidate, Steve Sundquist, is pushing a plank for more philanthropy dollars.

The article discusses how Idaho unlike say, California, has fewer hands out for money and being a smaller state, charities are more likely to know first-hand about needs in their communities.
Of course this is good for a one-time need but is it something that can be depended upon? For example, we talk about more possible public-private partnerships for our district like New School. However, we then get mixed opinions on the fairness of one group of kids getting "more" than others or even the sustainability of the funding (New School's Memo of Understanding runs out fairly soon and there is no guarantee it will continue.).

What should we be looking for in terms of support from the community at large?

(By the way, I checked out Albertson's website - Albertson's is referenced in the article numerous times as a major contributor in Idaho - and they have a fairly simple application procedure. You should check it out if your PTA or other non-profit have a need that matches their criteria.)


Roy Smith said…
My concerns about looking for private funding for public education are:

1) Sustainability - Not many education programs that I know of are mostly in search of "seed money"; these programs simply can't survive without continual and reasonably stable funding. Accepting private charitable dollars to start a program without having a very clear idea of how the program will be funded for the long term seems to me to be very much like buying a house using an mortgage that has a "low introductory rate" but is otherwise unaffordable and gambling on being able to refinance into an affordable mortgage. If the long-term funding source for a new program is not available now, then why do we think it will be available in a few years when the private funding for a new program ends?

2) Control - What happens when there are disagreements about how things should be done in a privately funded educational program between the school district administration and the entities funding the program? Is it appropriate for a public school system to cede control of programs to entities that are not accountable to voters?

3) Public Education Financing - The state has a constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. In some instances, it appears that private funding for programs may allow the legislature to further underfund education, since somebody else is taking on some responsibility for fixing the shortfalls.

That all being said, I strongly support seeking out charitable money to support organizations such as PTAs, booster clubs, etc. This is something that has been an appropriate role for charitable contributions for a long time, and ought to be continued.

I also think that a charitable endowment (administered by SPS) is a great idea. I'm not sure how that would work legally (it might require some changes in state law to make it functional), but I know that endowments for public schools do exist in other states.

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