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Money and influence: philanthropies, intermediary organisations, and Atlanta’s 2017 school board election

  • Author(s): DeBray, E;
  • Hanley, J;
  • Scott, J;
  • Lubienski, C
  • et al.

National philanthropies have recently played a prominent role in spending on U.S. urban school board elections, largely seeking to promote candidates who support charter schools. In Atlanta in 2017, 30 candidates competed for nine open school board seats. One practice has been to fund intermediary organisations (IOs) (e.g. advocacy groups, foundations) that disseminate information and research in an effort to shape public opinion. This paper analyses the role of IOs in the 2017 school board race in Atlanta. Drawing on 12 interviews with policymakers and IO representatives, analysis of campaign literature, and media accounts, the authors contrast the ways in which the intermediary and philanthropic sectors attempted to influence leaders’ framing of educational policy issues. Findings reveal a nascent capacity for IOs in Atlanta for shaping support for pro-charter board candidates. The paper discusses implications for understanding the role that IOs may play in the politics of urban education.

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