The role of philanthropy in funding the charter school movement has been well documented. With tens of millions of dollars, the family foundation of Donald and Doris Fisher led the way in transforming the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) from a pair of schools in Houston and New York in 1999 into a national network over the ensuing decade. With similar largesse, several other foundations—Broad, Dell, Gates, Robertson, Robin Hood, Tiger, and Walton, chief among them—have nurtured and developed such charter management organizations (CMOs) as Achievement First, Building Excellent Schools (BES), Democracy Prep, Individuals Dedicated to Excellence and Achievement (IDEA), Noble, Rocketship, Youth Engaged in Service (YES) Prep, Success Academy, and Uncommon Schools into robust regional networks.
The geographical concentration of this philanthropy has nevertheless gone largely unexplored. How foundations coalesce and collaborate in particular parts of the country provides telling detail about education policy and its necessary conditions. In "Converging on Choice: The Inter-State Flow of Foundation Dollars to Charter School Organizations," Joseph J. Ferrare and Renee Setari examine this dynamic and in the process reveal unmistakable patterns of coordination and influence.
Ferrare, an assistant professor of educational policy and evaluation at the University of Kentucky, and Setari, a graduate student in the same field at the same institution, employ quadratic assignment procedure (QAP) regression to analyze funding from 15 foundations between 2009 and 2014. Ferrare and Setari find that over these five years, the foundations shifted funding to a cluster of charter-friendly states and, more specifically, from solo charter schools to such CMOs as BES, KIPP, and Success Academy and such advocacy groups as the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the Charter School Growth Fund, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and the NewSchools Venture Fund.
Sophisticated yet clear and concise, this study at once exhibits ample use of the latest developments in network analytics and conveys in plain terms the agile positioning of philanthropies and their consequent impact on education policy.
Samuel E. Abrams
August 9, 2016