Thursday, January 6, 2011
The Washington Post reports that in Fairfax County, Virginia, one of the largest (by population) and richest counties in the country, the public school system is expanding its efforts to attract private contributions. Going well beyond the traditional bake sale model, the system has established a second education foundation aimed at obtaining donations from local businesses. The first foundation, the Fairfax Education Foundation, is limited to supporting technology initiatives, particularly at the highly selective and acclaimed Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and only raised $330,000 in 2009. The new foundation, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce Public Schools Education Foundation, formed in cooperation with the county's largest business association, has a mandate to support the entire system, which has an enrollment of more than 175,000 students and a budget of $2.2 billion. This development raises the question of whether local governments will begin competing more aggressively with charities on the revenue side, as well as increasingly reducing exemptions from fees and taxes on the expense side.