Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Katherine Cumings Mansfield, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D.


Nongovernmental actors have long been involved in the funding of U.S. K-12 public schools. With recent cuts to state funding to public education, however, groups called school-supporting nonprofits (Nelson & Gazley, 2014) have taken on a much larger role in school funding. Nonacademic, volunteer, parent-led groups such as parent teacher associations (PTAs), parent teacher organizations (PTOs), and booster clubs, especially, have grown in number and in amount of revenues raised, and are funding core school needs and functions. This situation confuses obligations of public institutions, undermines equity, and complicates the role of educational leaders. This mixed-methods study explores the influence of school-supporting non-profit organizations (SSNPs), in the suburban districts in the Richmond, VA quad-county metropolitan area. The focus of the current study is on the intersection of student economic disadvantage and race/ethnicity with the presence and types of SSNPs, their volunteer capacity and activities, and their financial capacity and impact. This study further examines why and how SSNPs exist as they do and how educational and nonprofit leaders manage their roles. Results show meaningful differences between groups in almost every variable, showing socioeconomic and racial disparities exacerbated by parent-led SSNP organizations. SSNPs at the most affluent schools with the most White and Asian students justify their work by touting the benefits to SSNP members’ children, explaining that the raising of funds and providing of volunteer staffing is both a virtuous activity and needed for the schools they support to function. Educational leaders must share power with these groups. This phenomenon raises questions about the purpose of SSNPs as civic and nonprofit organizations, exacerbates already inequitable availability of educational opportunities and resources across schools, and threatens the public nature of public education. While many policy remedies for this problem exist, a priority is more public revenues and funding of public schools.


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