Building "Social Capital" Through Advocacy, Alliances & Forums

December 2001

This essay was written for the Public Education Network's Connections, Vol. 8, No. 1, Winter 2001

Policymakers have devoted considerable attention to the issue of public schools and financial capital. However, “social capital”—the resources of public involvement and public support—can have a major impact on the kind of learning environments that exist in these schools. Yet, only a relatively small number of researchers and activists have explored the dynamic of social capital and attempted to examine ways in which public school systems can build—or sacrifice—public involvement and support.

This essay discusses how local education funds (LEFs) and other community groups and school districts can work together to ensure community oversight of schools in a way that is not so intrusive that it denies parents the ability to realize their most basic values and aspirations.