The Best Resources For Learning About Parent Fundraising & Equity Issues

As public financing for schools goes down, the issue of parent fundraising for schools — and equity issues connected to it — is getting more and more attention.

I thought I’d at least get a start on bringing together a few resources on the topic. Additional suggestions are welcome:

I’ve written a post titled The Nuances Of Parent Fundraising For Schools that is worth a look.

The New York Times wrote about how “At Two City Schools, Parents’ Money Leads to Two Very Different Experiences.”

And The Times has also published Fund-Raising Fairness Is Being Tested in Oregon, With Mixed Results. Here’s an excerpt:

So a compromise was struck.

Efforts to split Santa Monica-Malibu district gain new traction is an article in The New York Times about a controversy around wealthy parent fundraising in Malibu being with Santa Monica.

Parents could have private foundations for their children’s schools. But 30 cents of every dollar raised after the first $10,000 must be passed on to the citywide foundation.

Rob Reich (not Robert Reich, the former Clinton Cabinet member) has written a useful article in The New York Times titled Not Very Giving.

It’s about the issue of parents in wealthy communities raising private funds for public schools, while high-poverty schools are in the same situation.

Here are his suggestions for how to respond to problem:

There is still a lot we can do to improve upside-down system of charity. First, wealthy school foundations like Hillsborough’s should honor the equality-promoting standards released by the National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education (on which I served). At a minimum, would require private giving to be aggregated across schools and equally with the entire school district. More ambitiously, it would channel private giving to support poor districts.

Second, because the root cause of inadequate school financing is ultimately political, not philanthropic, donors and school foundations should support political reforms. A movement is afoot in California to amend the property-tax slashing Proposition 13 to require fair market value taxation of commercial real estate, which would raise tax revenues. In effect, by asking parents to donate, the Hillsborough Schools Foundation encourages them to work around the obstacle of Prop 13 rather than confronting the problems it creates directly. It would be better if the foundation organized parents in support of amending Prop 13.

Finally, Congress should differentiate or eliminate charitable status for local education foundations. If a foundation raises money for a district with a high percentage of children eligible for free lunch, it could offer a double deduction; for a district below the average in per-pupil spending, the standard deduction; for a district with few poor children and higher than average per-pupil spending, no deduction. If private giving to public schools exacerbates inequalities, then at the very least we should stop subsidizing such behavior with tax dollars.

How Budget Cuts and PTA Fundraising Undermined Equity in San Francisco Public Schools is a very interesting article in the San Francisco Public Press that deals with issues of funding inequity far beyond the confines of San Francisco.

In fact, it may be the best piece I’ve seen on role of parent fundraising in this problem and ways to deal successfully with the challenge.

Here’s how it ends:

The most effective solutions may be political, not charitable.

Reich counsels parents troubled by growing public-school inequities to turn their energies from giving to advocating for reform. He said they should work to raise tax rates for the wealthy, decouple school budgets from property taxes and target state and local resources to the poorest schools.

In a Sept. 4 op-ed for The New York Times, Stanford political science professor Rob Reich (no relation to the coincidentally named Robert Reich) went a step further, proposing that the federal government create a special charitable status for school-based PTAs, so that those who give to poor schools get double deductions and those who give to affluent schools get none.

Norton said the changes in state funding have sparked other possible reform ideas specific to San Francisco.

“We desperately need to reweight the student formula,” she said. This may be the most decisive battle to be waged in the next year on behalf of poor and immigrant schools such as Junipero Serra.

“A well-educated populace is the key to a healthy democracy,” said David, the Alvarado parent, who turned to full-time education activism after a successful Wall Street career. “Public education is an investment, not an expenditure. My grandparents were immigrants. They came to the United States, they got a public education, they lived the American dream. Education is the one way we know that can help each person rise, generation after generation. If you care about the future of America, education for all kids is in all our interests.”

Scoreboards and butterfly gardens: Is parent fundraising equitable in Montgomery? is an article that appeared in The Washington Post.

Here’s an excerpt:

Parent fundraising and private donations have produced enviable results at some Montgomery County schools: athletic scoreboards, artificial turf, a nearly $250,000 elementary school improvement project.

Other schools have seen little of such largesse.

Now Montgomery school leaders are asking: Should more be done to spread the wealth?

Such questions have become increasingly pointed in Montgomery, a high-performing school district where both prosperity and poverty exist and where gaps in student achievement are a continuing challenge. To that end, school officials have launched a review of the district’s policy on contributions made to improve facilities.

“If it’s good enough for any kid in Chevy Chase, it’s good enough for my kid, too,” said Melinda Anderson, a parent in Aspen Hill who argued at a community meeting last week that all school upgrades are important and that equity needs to be paramount.

Donation inequality felt among Santa Rosa schools is the headline of an article appearing in the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat.

It’s fairly lengthy, and highlights an ongoing issue in many schools in the inequity of private fundraising. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really seriously discuss potential solutions.

Nation’s Wealthy Places Pour Private Money Into Public Schools, Study Finds is the headline of a New York Times article on parent fundraising for schools.

Here’s an excerpt:

The inequities in local philanthropic fund-raising, which is unregulated and tax-deductible for donors, mirror the growth in wealth among the richest 1 percent over all, said Rob Reich, an associate professor of political philosophy at Stanford University. The energy that parents expend raising money for their own children’s school, he said, “comes at the potential expense of their political engagement on a broader basis to actually get public dollars to be enough for all kids.”

The New York Times “Room For Debate” has a variety of commentaries on Bake Sales and Inequality” Fund-raising is useful for public schools, but does is it give better-off families an advantage?

I’m adding post to a list of other “The Best…” lists I’ve published related to parent engagement.

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