Last year, the nonprofit Fund for Public Schools, housed at the DOE and key to the department’s recent embrace of public-private partnerships, generated $44.1 million in foundation, corporate, and individual donations for education initiatives as diverse as principal training, performance pay, and library improvements.

But even though the unfolding financial crisis is proving to be “bad news for some of our funders,” including Lehman Brothers, AIG, and Merrill Lynch, the fund’s director says she thinks the fund will be able to maintain a high level of giving.

“It’s too early for us to know what the implications will be,” said Lara Holliday, the fund’s director. “Certainly this is going to affect us somehow … [but] so far we haven’t seen anything happen.”

In fact, the fund so far this year has outpaced last year’s earnings, Holliday said. And the fund’s upcoming Shop for Public Schools week, during which retailers donate a portion of their revenues to bolster school libraries, attracted more companies than ever this year.

Holliday said she doesn’t anticipate donors backing out of the commitments they’ve already made.
Nor does she think the uncertain financial climate calls for the fund to change its approach. “We’re just going to stick to our original strategy” of pursuing a diverse portfolio of donors, she said. Certainly, with the city’s budget crunch cutting into school funding, “our schools are going to need them,” she said.

“We’re just going to keep doing our work and hope for the best.”