Stealth Inequities in K-12 Public Schools: Revealing How Fundraising PTAs Entrench Hierarchies and Exploring Pathways Toward Equity
Claire Mackevicius

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Northwestern University

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
My dissertation focuses on fundraising PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations, Organizations, and ?Friends Of? groups), which provide private, supplemental resources to some public K-12 schools. In my first chapter, I test the dominant presumption in the growing literature on fundraising PTAs that these organizations are responsive to government resources at schools. I use quasi-experimental methods to generate the first causal evidence of whether fundraising PTA spending changes when government spending at schools changes. In my second chapter, I use descriptive statistics to chart patterns in where fundraising PTAs are distributed. I find that above and beyond the economic capacity to raise funds, there?s a racialized dimension of PTA resource distribution. In particular, relatively whiter schools tend to have higher-spending fundraising PTAs even if they serve similarly-wealthy student populations. While it is unlikely that PTA organizations, or those involved, aim to actively perpetuate hierarchies, I uncover patterns that make clear these groups can serve as subtle hierarchy-entrenching mechanisms. In my third chapter, I study a unique setting where parents and caregivers are pooling and redistributing PTA resources across the schools in their district. I conducted semi-structured interviews to uncover ways that sensemaking processes can contribute to reoriented roles related to resources at schools. My dissertation surfaces conditions and contexts that support pathways to lessen PTA inequities, informs school funding research and policies that do not systematically account for private resources at public schools, and helps to enrich theorizing on racialized organizations exacerbating social stratification but also potentially engaged in substantive change work.
About Claire Mackevicius
Claire Mackevicius is a Ph.D. candidate in Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern?s School of Education and Social Policy. She broadly considers: what are the promises of public education, and what are the realities? She focuses on how organizations and individuals use their power to make consequential resource distribution decisions that often reify?and in some cases combat?deeply entrenched racial and economic inequities. She uncovers how unofficial and often unseen resources can reinforce particular agendas and deepen social stratification, while also taking seriously the need to surface possibilities and develop pathways toward equitable futures. In her dissertation projects, she studies private money at public K-12 schools from fundraising PTAs (including Parent Teacher Associations, Organizations, and ?Friends Of? groups). Her ongoing collaborations include projects ranging from how school boards allocate public resources to where large foundations grant private dollars to how Evanston, Illinois?s Guaranteed Income pilot program may develop into a permanently resourced policy. She recently co-authored a meta-analysis synthesizing the evidence on the effects of school funding, moving beyond conversations of whether money matters at schools. In our research worlds and broader communities, Claire is committed to cultivating critical and productive coalitions, reorienting norms, and pushing toward transformation. She is proud to be one of the six-person organizing team of the Quant for What? collective planting and nourishing seeds to dream and build quantitative paradigms for antiracist transformation, bringing power awareness and a humanizing approach to the burgeoning critical quantitative education subfield.

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