From Oprah to Taylor Swift to Tobias Harris, celebrities and pro athletes have long donated portions of their fortunes to schools.
But a growing number of stars are taking their investment in education to the next level. They’re launching entire schools tied to their interests, helping students in their hometowns or marshaling their connections to tie academics to the entertainment industry.
It started in earnest in 2011, when NBA great LeBron James and his foundation partnered with Akron Public Schools, seeking to lift a generation of kids out of poverty in his Ohio hometown. Now actor George Clooney and music legend Dr. Dre are pledging money and connections to Los Angeles Unified School District, while rapper Pitbull’s sports-themed charter school has spread to three states.
Charitable endeavors of the rich and famous can take many forms. Financially speaking, tax implications for the donor are the same whether you give to schools or any other public charity, said Lawrence Zelenak, a law professor at Duke University. But the pop of good publicity might be greater when a donor starts a school, not to mention the feeling of shaping kids’ education and the opportunities they’ll receive as a result.