Four years ago, the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT), along with parents and community members, committed ourselves to ensuring that students in Saint Paul, particularly students of color, receive a quality education.

However, like many school districts across the country, the Saint Paul Public School system is financially broke. It’s become an annual tradition that they announce how big the deficit is and then make the needed cuts.

SPFT decided to do something different in our current negotiations. We are using our contract campaign to show that corporate philanthropy is not an adequate substitute for corporations paying their fair share of taxes for public education and that there are serious problems with the way corporations carry out their philanthropy for our schools.

Charity is not a replacement for government. When we fund schools through taxes, we have democratically elected representatives who decide how to best spend those funds for the common good. In contrast, with charitable contributions, corporations decide what is best for our schools and dictate how to use their donations. Corporate donors can – and often do – make applicants jump through numerous hoops to receive funding.

There is a clear imbalance of power between the school district and the corporations. The “power of the purse” has made the district grateful for corporate donations of any amount, regardless of how the funds are designated to be used. A true partnership in which the grantmaker and grantee are working towards the same goals would involve real conversations between the corporate donors and the district, along with teachers and parents, to identify the most pressing school needs and the best avenues for the corporate involvement.

Read the full article about corporate donations funding schools by Nick Faber at The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.