New York City’s Big Donors Find New Cause: Public Schools

David M. Herszenhorn writes:
In the context of the system’s regular budget of about $15 billion a year, $311 million might seem insignificant. But the tax dollars come with so many strings that the administration has viewed private money as crucial for research and development and an array of experimental programs.

“You are able to do it without saying this is money that is going to come out of the classroom,” Mr. Klein said in an interview.
So far, the mayor’s and the chancellor’s collections include more than $117 million to start new small schools; nearly $70 million to open an academy for principal training; $41 million for the nonprofit center supporting charter schools; $11.5 million to renovate libraries; $8.3 million to refurbish playgrounds; and $5.7 million to reshape troubled high schools.

New money or old, donors have been enthusiastic enough to write seven- and eight-figure checks. As a result, the school system has been the largest beneficiary in a mayoralty that has reached to the private sector, strategically and aggressively, for all sorts of support.
Donors to the schools, many of whom have been attending black-tie benefits together for years, said the mayor and the chancellor have transformed the way the school system relates to gift-givers, by improving communication and creating a sense of professionalism.
“I come from the business world; I’m used to a world where there is freedom and accountability and that never seemed to exist in the world of public education,” Mr. Reich said.
“The very notion of a dynamic entrepreneur is that they want to make something happen,” he continued, sipping from a demitasse of espresso served by an aide in chef’s whites. “They want to be part of a movement. As mayor he believes in the ideal of these public-private partnerships.”
After becoming chancellor in 2002, Mr. Klein created an Office of Strategic Partnerships and imposed on his wife’s college friend, Caroline Kennedy, to serve as its chief executive. Mr. Klein made the pitch while visiting Ms. Kennedy and her husband, Edwin A. Schlossberg, on Martha’s Vineyard.