Private Foundation Activism in the Early School Finance Equalization Movement: A Case Study of the Ford Foundation's Grantmaking Between 1966 and 1980
By: Marian Adams Bott
Published: 05/16/2012
Uploaded: 11/13/2017
Uploaded by: Pocket Masters
Pockets: 2012 (May) Teachers College Columbia University Ed.D. Dissertations, Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: Ford Foundation, James Kelly, San Antonio, school finance, social movements, Tax Reform

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Description/Abstract: Until the mid-1960s it was taken for granted that education funding in the U.S.
was highly unequal. With heavy dependence upon property taxes and large geographic differences in property wealth, it was inevitable that a system of educational finance based largely on these characteristics would provide unequal funding for schools.
Thereafter, school finance reformers began to assert that the system violated both state and federal constitutions, and particularly the “equal protection clauses” in their respective constitutions. Because resources were needed to collect and analyze the facts underlying these legal challenges and to prepare legal strategies, it became common to request funding from philanthropic foundations. At the same time, and particularly after 1969, the regulations for tax-free status of private foundations and their grantees restricted their ability to be political players or activists in such matters.

The Ford Foundation, the largest foundation at that time, developed a program to support legal challenges to existing school finance equities. This dissertation reviews
Ford’s school finance grants between 1966 and 1980. It draws on interviews with the principals who participated in the grantmaking process or received grants, and on extensive archival research. It presents six mini-case studies of grantees to demonstrate
which levers of activism they used and reveals Ford’s use of internal Delegated
Authority Projects to support its own activism related to school financing. The cases show that Ford lacked a coordinated strategy in Texas and that litigation in California ultimately forced a tax cap. However, Ford grantees generally used the activism levers of litigation and public engagement to good short-term effect, and Ford groomed leaders to ensure long-term impacts of school finance reform.The study finds that Ford’s grants, despite its activist reputation, were not violative of political restraints on private foundations.