December 12, 2002
Urban Institute
In the early 1980s, public schools, particularly in urban areas, were struggling with changing demographics and a need for greater community commitment to public education. Small independent community-based organizations, called local education funds (LEFs), were first established at this time by community leaders to bridge the gap between communities and their schools. Twenty years later, the Public Education Network (PEN), the national organization of more than 70 of the country's LEFs, is championing LEFs' unique contributions to educational reform and planning new methods to continue to support their work. One important aspect of PEN's efforts is the development of a research agenda around LEF leadership and effectiveness. This report describes efforts by the Urban Institute and PEN to better understand and describe leadership in LEFs. The Institute has supported the emerging research on LEF leadership in several ways. First, in 2001, researchers administered and analyzed results of a survey of all current LEF executive directors. The results provided a snapshot of leadership characteristics and attitudes. Second, in 2002, researchers reviewed existing literature on LEFs and nonprofit leadership and interviewed several individuals about the founding of LEFs. Third, also in 2002, researchers conducted 60-to 90-minute telephone interviews with 10 founding directors of early LEFs.
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