Friday, May 3, 2013

How Do Education Foundations in New Jersey's Top Towns Stack Up To Billionaire Philanthropy? Not So Well.

A comment I received on my post Hebrew Charters Hit The Broadway Stage kind of irked me.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE a good debate, and have no problem being challenged. In fact, I welcome it. 

I just wish anonymous commenters that take the time to do some research and go toe to toe with me would let me know who I have the pleasure of debating.  

Anonymous brought up an interesting point, that when I compared the Hebrew Charter School Center's (HCSC) Broadway fundraiser to my school's PTO collecting boxtops, I was leaving out the fact that often Education Foundations raise far more money for districts than PTOs or PTAs.

Point well taken.

So it made sense to look at how Education Foundation giving stacks up to the likes of the HCSC.

As I was doing some research for my response to Anonymous' comment I realized there were lots of links I wanted to add, so here is the comment and my response as a post instead.

AnonymousMay 2, 2013 at 6:29 PM 
Darcie, really? 
It seems to me that that the Hebrew Language people may have learned from Highland Park what a good fundraiser theater can be: This past year the Highland Park Education Foundation hosted an evnet using its Broadway connections to raise money when they featured Amy Herzog at the Italian Bistro.  
The Highland Park Education Foundation has boasted over the years raising thousands of dollars for the Highland Park Public schools, and I would think that the Highland Park Education Foundation folks would love to leverage other famous HPHS grads like Sam Hoffman, Willie Garson and Soterios Johnson. So while the Matilda fundraiser may have been a bit more sucessful, Highland Park is hardly limited to boxtops. 
And while the Highland Park Education Foundation may have not been sucessful raising big money for the Highland Park public schools, other public school supporters have been very effective in raising very large sums: 
The Princeton Education Foundation has boasted giving their district $113,000 this past school year. 
The Rumson Education Foundation boasts having raised $15 Million since its inception for their school district. 
The Somerset Hills Education Foundation just raised over $100,000 at their chiili cook off. 
The Summit(NJ) Education Foundation just raised $150,000 at their Casino night fundraiser. And the foundation boasts giving their public school districts $342,000.00 in grants in 2012.

My response

Ah, I love it when Anonymous posters make a point to call me out by name. 

Really, I do. 

Anonymous, I can't speak for Rumson, Princeton, Summit or Somerset Hills.  Those districts have nothing to do with my district, or Hatikvah. 

But I do appreciate your point that often Education Foundation fundraisers pull in more money than PTO, PTA or parent driven fund raisers, and I ignored that.  

So lets compare the Highland Park Education Foundation (HPEF) and the Amy Herzog fundraiser you mention with the HCSC and the Afternoon at the Theater fundraiser I wrote about and see if you have a valid point when you claim that "other public school supporters have been very effective in raising very large sums."

Amy Herzog is an HP alum, and is now a successful, albeit still off-Broadway, playwright. She came back to her home town and gave a talk at a local restaurant. I forget the ticket price for the event, but I can assure you it was far less than the $50,000 some of New York's wealthiest families paid to see a private showing of a Tony Award nominated Broadway production of the Royal Shakespeare Company.   

According to their website, in the last two years the HPEF has awarded a little more than $25,000 in grants. That's two years worth of work to raise HALF of the $50,000 some folks shelled out for just 12 of the 1460 seats at the Shubert Theater.

According to HCSC's 990, in 2010 alone Hatikvah received $248,596, and that DOES NOT include the $142,000 that was given to their after school programs.  

So Anonymous, your attempt to equate a home town girl done good helping to raise a little bit of money at a local bistro and the HCSCs ability to commandeer an entire performance of a hit Broadway musical kind of falls flat.    

I'm kind of intrigued now, so let's explore this idea a little further. Above I said I wouldn't address the other Education Foundations you mentioned, but doing so may in fact be interesting. The towns you list are some of the wealthiest in the state, so I wonder how they stack up against the giving power of the HCSC?  

NJ Monthly says Rumson is number five in NJ's Top 20 Towns, so let's use them as our test case. Their Education Foundation has raised a whopping 1.5 M since it's inception 17 years ago. (In your comment you erroneously state it was 15 M - I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that this was an honest mistake.)

That sounds like a lot of money, right?

Except according to that same 990, HCSC gave out 1.2 M in 2010 alone and had 4M in total assets. 

And let's take this comparison just one step further.  Rumson has about 1,000 students and Hatikvah has around 200. 

If Rumson schools get about $90,000 per year from their Education Foundation, that breaks down to approximately $90 a student.

We've already established that Hatikvah got almost $400,000 in 2010 for their charter and after school programs.

That's $2,000 per student. 

Anonymous, while you may have a point that Education Foundations raise more money than the bake sales, book fairs and box tops I wrote about in my original post, they're not exactly raking in the "very large sums" you indicated. Even Education Foundations in New Jersey's wealthiest towns fall FAR short of the giving power of billionaire backed foundations like HCSC.

So yes, REALLY Anonymous. 

Traditional public schools can not match the private money that flows into charter schools backed by hedge fund billionaires.

But thanks for stopping by!



  1. Anonymous also left out another stark contrast.

    Creating a local Education Fund does not entitle you to a seat on your local school Board. Hatikvah and other HCSN schools have Michael Steinhardt's family members and employees on, and often directing, the charter school's Board in return for their money.

    Part of what Anonymous chooses to ignore is that in return for the Millions that the Steinhardt Foundation doles out via the HSCN leaves Hatikvah beholden to Steinhardt.

    Should Highland Park turn over control of its' public schools in return for Millions in Ed Foundation dollars by the friendly hedge-fund manager next door? No!

    A public school can not and should not allow itself to be bought by hedge-fund managers in return for them to run the school, because this is a democracy and the voters still elect their Board (well, not the charters). After all, we are still talking about schools receiving a sizable amount of our tax dollars.

  2. Corporate Foundations give big money to public education all the time most of the time it is to flagging urban disrtricts. some of the districts are in New Jersey but not always.

    Mark Zukerberg and the Prudential Foundation and well known patrons of Newark city schools. It is widely known that Zuckerberg gave Newark $100 million for education.

    But closer to Highland Park there is very generous corporate giving from a very high profile donor: Johnson and Johnson is the patron of New Brunswick. If not for J&J New Brunswick would not be what it is today (even though it still has many problems.) The J&J affiliate DEVCO recently constructed two school buildings for New Brunswick - the Lord Sterling School in 2002 for $27.8 Million and in 2010 the New Brunswick High School which is reported to have cost $185 Million.

    These are all deserving of public praise. Some corporate gifts are seeking to foster educational development, some seek to foster chage some support necesary projects that would otherwise be borne by the local residents. But they are all laudable.

  3. Is this the same Anonymous??

    I'm not going to invest the same amount of time challenging you this time. If you would like to research money J&J has supposedly fundraised for the New Brunswick Public schools, be my guest, but all you've presented here is that J&J plays a big in New Brunswick. Hardly news.

    As for DEVCO's involvement in the high school and Lord Stirling, the STATE bore the ENTIRE cost of the high school, and I'd assume Lord Stirling as well. As far as I can tell, DEVCO just built it.

    So what the heck is your point?

    And Zuckerberg? Really? A one time cash dump to a public school district is not even remotely the issue I was addressing in terms of the fundraising capabilities of this particular chain of charter schools.

    If this is the same Anonymous you are really grasping at straws now...

  4. The point is that there is corporate money going to public schools all the time. Sometimes you like the donor's goals and sometimes you dont. But that doesnt make it any less true.

    I suspect that if a person/corporation wanted to give money to your school district that supported a goal that both you and the donor thought was laudable you would not be so critical. There is a realization among many tech companies that math and science education (STEM) is lacking in the United States and many are funding programs to adress those issues: would you argue against your district accepting such a gift if there were specifi restrictions on its utilization?

  5. Hi The Anon,

    First it was Education Foundations (which didn't donate nearly as much), then school construction (which was completely fabricated) and now it's corporations and STEM funding? You're all over the map!

    "The point is that there is corporate money going to public schools all the time."

    So prove it. Just saying it doesn't make it so. Research the amount of money you suggest J&J has donated to the New Brunswick public schools and then we can see if it is comparable to the money the HCSC raised for their 4 or 5 schools. Otherwise, you are just dealing with hypotheticals.

    The onus is on YOU to show that J&J is dumping huge sums of cash into New Brunswick comparable to the hundreds of thousands the HCSC is dumping into Hatikvah. I've lost interest in proving you wrong again.

    And the hypothetical about some person/corporation wanting to give money to my district is just silly. I'll let you know when someone shows up at our door with hundreds of thousands of dollars.