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10 Solutions to Inequality in Elementary School Fundraising
Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.
PTA fundraising at public elementary schools in San Francisco is wildly uneven, with only a small number of schools raising enough money in recent years to avoid the worst effects of state budget cuts. Based on Public Press research and conversations with experts in the field, here are some options for addressing uneven access to funding for San Francisco’s public elementary schools.
- Individuals can donate to Edmatchsf.org or urge their employers to do so, channeling money to the neediest schools.
- Parents can match contributions they make to their own child’s school with additional gifts to a poorer school.
- PTAs at affluent and low-income schools can voluntarily become sister institutions, sharing knowledge and resources.
- The San Francisco Unified School District could create a standard Web platform for making donations, available to all schools, to correct for huge imbalances in the schools’ Web presences.
- The school district could prohibit PTA funds from paying and training teachers.
- The school district or regional PTA can collect part of or all parent-raised funds and redistribute them through a local education foundation.
- With new money coming from the state next year, San Francisco could reweight its student funding formula to raise the floor for all schools, making fundraising less necessary.
- The federal government could create levels of charitable status for school-based PTAs, awarding double deductions for gifts to poor schools and no benefit to those who give to affluent schools.
- Local and state governments could raise tax rates for the wealthy, decouple school budgets from property taxes or target specific poor schools (not just whole districts with many poor schools) with more resources.
- Local educators and policymakers could foster a sense of camaraderie across barriers of social class, citizenship status and race so that taxpayers and parents see San Francisco’s children as all in the same boat.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PRIVATE MONEY: Examining Education Inequality in San Francisco
The San Francisco Public Press examined tax records from PTAs and compiled 10 years of budget and academic data from the city’s school district. The research focused only on elementary schools to make easy comparisons. Our research shows that while a small number of schools were able to avoid the worst effects of recent budget cuts, belts continued to tighten at schools with more economically disadvantaged students. Read more online: sfpublicpress.org/publicschools
Other Stories in This Series:
This team project was produced by reporters Jeremy Adam Smith, Emilie Raguso and Justin Slaughter, with research assistance by Jeffrey Thorsby, Jason Winshell, Adriel Taquechel and Shinwha Whang. Tim Redmond, editor of 48hillsonline.org, inspired the project’s focus. We are indebted to EdSource.org for advice on education policy. Thanks to Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton at the U.C. Berkeley Greater Good Science Center for data analysis. This article was made possible by a grant from Rebecca Moyle and Tyler Lange, and donations from hundreds of other Public Press members.
Buy a copy of the newspaper | See also: Five Ways to Encourage Giving to Disadvantaged Public Schools (Greater Good Science Center) | Radio: Jeremy Adam Smith interviewed on KPFA’s “Morning Mix” | KQED News | KQED’s hour-long talk show “Forum” with Dave Iverson
About the Author
Jeremy Adam Smith has led two reporting projects for the Public Press that won excellence in explanatory journalism awards from the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, on the Treasure Island redevelopment and on the impact of parent fundraising on public schools. He also writes about behavioral science for the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. He is the author or coeditor of four books, most recently “Are We Born Racist?” and “Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood.” In 2010-2011, Jeremy was a John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University. You can follow him on Twitter.