Public Press wins an Excellence in Journalism award for ‘Public Schools, Private Money,’ in the winter 2014 edition
Some school PTAs add hundreds of dollars per student
Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.
The San Francisco Unified School District aims to spend its funds equitably, not necessarily equally. That means giving more to schools with the highest needs, based on a complex formula. But in the past decade, parents at some schools have developed sophisticated fundraising operations to make up for years of tight districtwide budgets. The result: parents at a few schools are able to significantly supplement their children’s education, while most are not.
By the Numbers:
SFUSD Parent Fundraising
$113 million The shortfall the San Francisco Unified School District faced in 2009-2010, the worst of five straight years of cuts. The gap between the district’s projected needs and the final budget last school year was only $13 million.
800% The increase between 2002 and 2011 in spending by elementary school parent-teacher associations, to make up budget cuts. In 2011 the PTAs spent a total of $5.32 million.
$2,770,158 Total PTA fundraising in 2011 by the top 10 elementary schools. That was about half of what all 71 elementary school PTAs in the district took in.
63% Portion of San Francisco elementary school students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
5 The number of schools where more than four-fifths of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch in 2000.
18 The number of schools where more than four-fifths of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch in 2012.
$42,643 The maximum income a family of four can earn to qualify for reduced-price lunch in California. (To qualify for free lunch, that family must earn less than $29,965.)
$47,340 The average annual rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco ($12,000 more than it was at the beginning of 2013).
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
Jason Winshell is photo editor of the Public Press. He also reports and does data analysis. The focus of his art is social documentary photography. In 2010, he was nominated for the SFMOMA SECA award. He has published a book of 45 color photographs about life in San Francisco, “Street.”
Tom Guffey is director of design at the Public Press. He is also associate director of marketing & communications for the Downtown Oakland YMCA.
Justin is a freelance journalist and writer based in San Francisco. His work has been published in the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Public Press.
Jeffrey Thorsby is a student of public policy at San Francisco State University and a business consultant to the Public Press.
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