Top K-12 Education Foundations Ranked in National Study

Associate Editor

Local K-12 education foundations with $2 million or more in annual revenues topped a performance ranking of these nonprofit organizations that support individual school districts. Foundations with smaller treasure chests were also recognized in the report, which was released in September.

The foundations’ performance was measured according to eight key indicators which dewey & associates, a Tampa Bay, Fla.-based consulting firm, extracted from the Form 990s that nonprofits are required to submit to the Internal Revenue Service. Rankings were based on annual revenues, revenues per student, total assets, assets per student, investment income, total program expenses, expenses per student, and volunteers.

Among the top 10, four are Florida-based foundations, and two of the organizations—those in Omaha, Neb., and San Francisco, Calif.—are aligned with districts that have smaller student populations. (Omaha is the 98th largest district in the country, and San Francisco is 72nd.)

According to “Stepping Up: The Top Education Foundations in the Nation,” the top 10 are:

  1. Pinellas Education Foundation (Florida)
  2. Clark County Public Education Foundation (Nevada)
  3. Omaha Schools Foundation (Nebraska)
  4. Denver Public Schools Foundation (Colorado)
  5. Philadelphia Education Fund (Pennsylvania)
  6. Hillsborough Education Foundation (Florida)
  7. The Fund for Public Schools (New York)
  8. The Foundation for Osceola Education (Florida)
  9. San Francisco Education Fund (California)
  10. Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools (Florida)

In the 100 largest school districts, K-12 education foundations spent more than $110 million on grants and programs for teachers and students. They raised more than $230 million to enhance public education, and they have assets of $322 million, which is a measure of their long-term sustainability, according to the study.

Dewey Caruthers, author of the survey, said he chose to base rankings on financial information from the foundations’ IRS filings because they provide objective data, but he recognizes “it could lead people to believe ‘it’s all about the money’.” In fact, the more money a foundation has, the more it can devote to program offerings, scholarships, and other contributions to K-12 education, he said. Further, a better-endowed foundation is sometimes more likely to have its assets invested for income and sustainability—although not always.

Caruthers maintains that parents are often unaware of the work these organizations do. “Some of the best ideas on improving student performance have come through education foundations,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that parents are often unaware of them.”

For next year, Caruthers is looking for a way to evaluate program performance. “The problem is, not all these foundations have common programs I can compare to each other,” he said. While most have dropout prevention and teacher recognition programs, there is no one program across all organizations, he said, so comparisons “wouldn’t be just ‘apples and oranges,’ but ‘watermelons and grapes’,” said Caruthers, who is president of dewey & associates.

“I want to see K-12 education foundations look more at measurement, data, and reporting,” he said.

Additional rankings of foundations, by size, are:

Top Five Foundations with $1 million to $1,999,999 in Revenues

  1. Brevard Schools Foundation (Florida)
  2. Polk Education Foundation and Business Partnership (Florida)
  3. Alpine School District Foundation (Utah)
  4. Cypress-Fairbanks Educational Foundation (Texas)
  5. Northside Education Foundation (Texas)

Top Five Foundations with $500,000 to $999,999 in Revenues

  1. Lewisville Education Foundation (Texas)
  2. Fort Bend ISD Education Foundation (Texas)
  3. Pasco Education Foundation (Florida)
  4. Plano ISD Education Foundation (Texas)
  5. Jordan Education Foundation (Utah)

Top Five Foundations with Revenues Under $500,000

  1. Futures Foundation for Volusia County Schools (Florida)
  2. Pasadena ISD Education Foundation (Texas)
  3. Loudoun Education Foundation (Virginia)
  4. BEST Education Foundation (Texas)
  5. Chesterfield Public Education Foundation (Virginia)

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