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Worthwhile Report on Parent Contributions to School Finance

BOULDER, CO (June 15, 2017) – While inequalities in school funding resulting from governmental funding systems have long been a source of concern to education researchers and policymakers, a recent report from the Center for American Progress examines a source of educational inequality that receives less attention: private fundraising by parents.

Hidden Money: The Outsized Role of Parent Contributions in School Finance was reviewed by Maia Cucchiara of Temple University.

The report focuses on the 50 Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) that raised the most money in 2013-2014. It reached two main findings. First, the PTAs raising large amounts were located in wealthier schools and districts—those with low rates of student poverty. Second, while a PTA in a high-poverty community may raise only a few hundred dollars, the PTAs in this sample raised hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Using case studies, the report considers district regulation of private fundraising. Professor Cucchiara concludes that the report’s findings about the scope and beneficiaries of private fundraising are credible and important—showing the impact successful PTAs can have. However, the focus on a small number of schools and districts, a lack of attention to school and community context, and problems with the case study design limit the report’s overall relevance. In addition, it is important to note that most funding inequalities arise at the state level; funds raised by parents represent only a minute portion of overall school spending.

Nevertheless, Professor Cucchiara concludes that the report’s recommendations, especially in support of equity grants, will be useful to district-level policymakers.

Find the review by Maia Cucchiara at:

Find Hidden Money: The Outsized Role of Parent Contributions in School Finance, by Catherine Brown, Scott Sargrad, and Meg Benner, published by Center for American Progress, at:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project ( provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

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