Chicago School Reform
Chicago “has become the biggest player in the boldest experiment now under way in urban school systems: inviting the private sector to fix what’s wrong with public education,” reports the Chicago Tribune. Mayor Richard Daley is launching “a sweeping plan to open 100 new schools by transforming the city’s worst high schools into small schools and remaking clusters of elementary schools” on the city’s poverty-stricken south and west sides. The program will be “seeded with $50 million in private donations and will rely on private groups to manage two-thirds of the new schools.” The name of the game is to take a tired government monopoly and make it into a high-performing public enterprise,“ says billionaire home builder Eli Broad, whose Broad Foundation is a major supporter of urban school reform. Broad says he expects to support the expansion of charter schools in Chicago. ”Competition makes a lot of sense,“ he explains, ”and it makes a lot of difference. If they make progress, the rest of the system is going to catch on.“
England to Redefine Charity
The ”confusing world of British charities,“ writes the London Independent, is facing significant change. This fall, Parliament will consider legislation that would more clearly define what a charity is, encourage greater transparency, and increase regulation of fundraising. Only those organizations deemed to be ”for the public benefit“ would be eligible for charity status. Many of England’s 187,000 registered charities, which take in over £30 billion each year, are concerned because last year, for the first time, government grants to charities exceeded public donations. That change isn’t due to a decrease in individual giving, but rather to the growth of governmental funding ”since Labour came to power and handed control of more services to charities.“ One charity advocate worries that as government funding outpaces private funding, ”the independence of charities to speak out and protest when they don’t agree with government policy“ will be compromised. Charities are also ”desperate to create ‘brand loyalty’“ as they fight for a share of the £12.90 a month that the average Briton gives away. (The comparable American figure is over four times as high.)
A Taxing Problem
The largest private employer in Maryland is a nonprofit: the Johns Hopkins Institutions. With 46,000 employees, most in Baltimore, and a growth rate of 1,000 jobs per year, the Institutions are a key cog in Baltimore’s economy. But there’s a downside to the growth of nonprofits, writes the Baltimore Sun. ”For a cash-strapped community such as Baltimore, a vibrant tax-exempt sector starts to look like a drain instead of a boon.“ Baltimore’s mayor claims the city loses some $67.5 million annually because nonprofits don’t pay property taxes. Claiming the move would save hundreds of government jobs, the Baltimore City Council recently levied $30 million in new taxes on nonprofit groups. In Pennsylvania, where nearly 20 percent of the citizenry works for a nonprofit, some communities are also asking nonprofits to make payments to local governments in lieu of taxes.
Donor-advised funds popular
When a group of young Denver residents wanted to ”make tangible and lasting improvements to education in Colorado,“ they didn’t want to wait until they had enough wealth to justify starting a foundation. Ryan O’Shaughnessy, 27, who set up the fund, tells the Rocky Mountain News he wasn’t taken seriously at first. But his former headmaster at Kent Denver School, Tom Kaesemeyer, who now works with the Gates Family Foundation in Denver, says he ”was really impressed with the spirit and maturity they showed“ and suggested they start a donor-advised fund. The Denver Foundation agreed to handle the ”Eagle Fund“ and even waived its $25,000 start-up minimum because of the young men’s ages. The number of donor-advised funds at the Denver Foundation has doubled since 2000, and nationwide such funds increased their assets by nearly 10 percent last year.
Giving Holds On
Charitable giving held steady in 2003, reports Giving U.S.A. 2004, an annual study compiled by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The year’s giving totaled $240.7 billion, up from $234 billion in 2002, a 0.5 percent increase after inflation. Corporate giving and giving by bequest grew in real terms by 1.9 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively, while foundation giving fell by 4.7 percent. A New York Times news story reports that while giving is stable, competition for available dollars is fiercer. Nonprofits continue ”to struggle in part because the number of charities continues to rise at a faster pace than charitable giving. The Internal Revenue Service grants tax exemption to an average of 83 nonprofit groups a day.“