Sunday, January 10, 2010

Funding Our Future

Thursday, February 25
6:30pm - 8:30pm
Marina Middle School

Enough is enough! San Francisco Unified School District is forecasting budget cuts of 10%-20% for the 2010-2011 school year. It is imperative that we find real short and long-term solutions to this unprecedented budget crisis!

On February 25th, join a coalition of parents in a community discussion with Carlos Garcia, SFUSD Superintendent of Schools, Mark Leno, Fiona Ma and Tom Ammiano from the California State Legislator, business and non-profit leaders and educators to effect positive, lasting change for our children's education.

Let's look for funding solutions and ways to bring about long-term change together. We are Funding Our Future.

The dialog will focus on:

Creative funding solutions to pending budget cuts
Smarter long-term budget reform
Local and state-wide parental advocacy efforts

The Goal of the Event:

We are interested in going beyond the talk of what is being cut from education or how we can cut less. We know that:

California is ranked 47th in the country per pupil spending.

Our class sizes are increasing rapidly.

Our teachers are receiving pink slips .

Many families have exited the system.

Simply put there is nothing left to cut. The time has come to take a stand and speak up for our children's future. Our state's future. Enough talking about what is wrong. The time has come to find real solutions and work together towards real change. To DO something. Please join us in this very important conversation.

For more information, please contact Michelle Parker at

RSVP on Facebook: click here.


  1. I believe that redirecting our entire culture away from "You're On Your Own" to "We're In This Together" thinking is the only TRUE solution.

    However ... in the meantime, our kids and their schools need resources. It is troubling me more and more over the years that while the high-income suburban school districts ALL have high-profile foundations raising money for all the schools from donors inside and outside the community, San Francisco has no such focused organization.

    The San Francisco School Alliance is the foundation that would seem designed to fill that role, but while I'm sure it's doing something, its profile is low and its effectiveness is murky. The recently merged San Francisco Education Fund and San Francisco School Volunteers would seem to be somewhere in there too. But none of them is doing what the foundations in Orinda or Mill Valley do -- simply making sure that donating to THE school foundation is viewed as a top priority for everyone in the community and beyond.

    Where are they? What can we do? I'm stumped and frustrated.

  2. Well, every time someone suggests on this blog that there ought to be a central pot of money to which parents and community members contribute private money, as opposed to all these individual PTAs and grant-writing committees, there are howls of outrage from some people here. It seems like a lot of San Franciscans are perfectly happy to watch our public schools privatize unevenly, with wealthier families clustered in particular ones. People will give to a school because it benefits their child (along with his/her classmates), but seem really upset about the prospect of their donations being spread evenly among the schools.

    The good thing about a foundation like you describe, too, is that individuals could and probably would donate regardless of whether they had kids, whereas I am guessing that the majority of individual donations now come to particular schools from the parents within, not from people without children. So that's that much less money coming into the schools. I know E.R. Taylor has an "angel" (from outside?), but that's surely an exception.

  3. Does anyone know if the school district has considered putting a temporary (e.g. 2 year) parcel tax on the next ballot to avoid the otherwise inevitable teacher layoffs? I feel like San Franciscans would vote for something if they knew it was temporary, and to stave off such drastic cuts.

  4. A new parcel tax to avoid the effects of statewide education budget cuts was was already approved by SF's voters a year or two ago. The city's voters are pretty generous, but with times as hard as they are, it might be tough to get another, additional property tax passed right now.

  5. I don't agree that there are howls of outrage to the particular concept I brought up -- or, really, howls of outrage HERE (on this blog) at all.

    There's a difference between this foundation concept and the concept that school communities themselves should do the fundraising and then split it among all schools. The response to the latter idea in discussion here, I think, has been more along the lines of PREDICTING howls of outrage in the greater school community.

    But as you indicate, 6:13, I'm talking about developing the funding primarily from outside the school communities. And again, this isn't some wacky fantasy notion -- it's what all the high-income suburbs do. San Francisco has plenty of high-net-worth individuals and corporations, so it's not fantasy to believe that they could be tapped more effectively to support our schools.

    I am so impressed with the high levels of activism and empowerment among the new parents coming into our district that I have hope that there will be new momentum for taking structures like the foundations I mention and reshaping them to work effectively. Why they aren't now is a mystery to me.

    Oh, and also let me note that it's far, far, far less true now that the wealthy families are clustered in a few schools than it was 10+ years ago -- night and day. It is true that some schools are still primarily low-income families, but fewer and fewer.

  6. Caroline, is it due to the sheer size of our district? The all-inclusive foundations I know of are in smaller, suburban districts.

    I agree, I have not read any howls of outrage over this idea.

  7. Caroline,

    In some ways, I like what you are suggesting, but I think there are a lot of reasons why that general fund doesn't exist in this city.

    You've probably seen my post regarding "taxing" the affluent parents who have their kids in immersion programs.

    Most people would consider contributing to a general fund for schools if they both had the means and felt that in some peripheral way, that had a stake in the outcome.

    The problem here in the city is that various parent factions have adopted a seige mentality to deal with the lack of funding and the lack good schools.

    I campaigned to pass "prop A" a few years ago. What really struck me was that many in the Asian community were completely uninterested in the need for prop A. It is true that schools that have a large number of Asian kids generally are very good. Asian families do work very hard to educate their children. However, I would say that in many cases, they are very focused on improving the education of Asian children only. The concentration of Asian families at schools like West Portal, AFY, Clarendon, E R Taylor, Stevenson and many others has happened in part because there are a large number of Asian families in the city. But it has also happened because these families have been allowed to declare themselves as ELL, when, in fact, they are bilingual. So the Asian community is very concentrated and, for the most part, do not feel compelled to contribute to the larger school community in the city.

    On average, those in the Latino community likely do not have the donating power to contribute to our broader community of schools. There are some interesting schools like Alvarado and Buena Vista that have a gestalt of working class and upwardly mobile families, but I would say that there is little "excess" income in this community to contribute to a larger pot.

    The African American community obviously still faces tremendous financial difficulties toward having funds to improve their schools. Many of the would be African American middle class have long since left the city (and even California, for that matter.) A small part of that is likely due to our city's school enrollment policy. For the most part, we don't have the kind of organized African American professional class that you would see in Chicago, Boston, New York or Atlanta. Oakland has a little, but also has tremendous problems.

    So that leaves us, the white guys, who are so fractionated in our goals that you practically need a spreadsheet to keep track of it all. (Moved, parochial, private, public immersion/good school, public immersion/crumby school, good public school, crumby school, chartered school.)

    In the above list, it is probably only those in "crumby schools" who might be motivated to contribute to a general fund to improve our schools. However, those in crumby schools likely do not have the means to contribute.

    continued in next post . . .

  8. Those in the good schools are probably too busy contributing to their own PTA fund. I suggested in another post that affluent parents with kids in some of the top immersion programs should pay a levy or tax. Essentially, they are getting a top notch private school education for their children for free, while most families in the city, middle class and poor, struggle to stay afloat.

    For the most part, those with kids in parochial or private certainly have no incentive (or means) to contribute to a general fund for schools. They're too busy trying to stay on top of the yearly tuition increases.

    In terms of a wealthy donor, I would not expect to find too many of those in this business climate. We also haven't done a very good job of keeping and attracting corporations to this city. I attended a Democratic Party function a year or two ago and was struck by how the "Aaron Peskin" crowd seemed a lot more interested in creating artist lofts in the downtown area, than in recruiting and retaining a multi-faceted multimedia/green tech/biotech/software/semi-conductor design community to the city.

    There are some city leaders, such as our sometimes quixotic mayor, who have tried to do this. But for the most part, the supervisors have worked against the mayor to accomplish this.

    Some of the additional funding for E R Taylor comes from an executive of a company just like the one I am talking about. I don't like the idea of depending on private donations for a school, but it is corporate taxes that generally fund schools. We lack a sufficient base of corporations in this city to adequately form the foundation for good school funding.

    Of course, corporations would start to ask for things like accountability which have historically been resisted.

    As to that cohort of people without kids who would vote for school funding increases, to be honest, I don't see that. I don't see much interest in schools from people who do not have school age children. That is one of the reasons that this city has such poor schools.

    So, the long and the short of it is that there is a kind of gridlock that works against across the board evenly funded schools in this city.

    We need better leadership at the supervisor level and better policy making at the school board to improve all schools, not just a few. I'm not a fan of more funding increases without this.

    Carlos Garcia continues to surprise me with his vision. He's working against a lot of history and in a very difficult time.

  9. I'm not necessarily talking about tapping the SFUSD parent community more. It's true that it's the norm in places like Mill Valley for parents to be expected to donate sums like $1,000 a year and more to the school foundation, and it's pretty easy to make that request when everyone in town is basically demographically identical. They never have to give a thought to whether they're also supporting the "undeserving poor." (As I may have posted, a Mill Valley friend once suggested at an Old Mill School PTA meeting that they donate part of their budget to Richmond schools, and there was a sudden attack of mass deafness in the room.)

    But anyway, I'm really talking about a greater pool of donors: the business community, from the big-name corporations in San Francisco AND the region to little donations by small retailers and restaurants (wanting that MANDATORY "We Support Our San Francisco Public Schools" sticker for their windows, without which they would be shunned, if this campaign did its job). The super-rich usual suspects, some of whom DO already provide support: Hellman, Getty, the big arts donors. You get the idea.

    Then there's in-kind. My kids' school has two technology needs right now. One is about $80,000 in fiberoptics work (beyond my understanding; I'm taking the principal's word), which would enable SOTA to implement online courses via UC that will take the place of the City College classes that have been cancelled in the budget crisis. (High school students often need these classes for various reasons.) The other is a high-powered, up-to-date computer that can handle SOTA's admissions process, which has been handled for eons by an older gentleman staffer sans post-1950 technology, and is finally ready to be computerized. I'm sure there are schools with greater needs, but I'm just describing ours.

    So why can't we just make that call to our local foundation, which would immediately hook us up with one of our fine locally based high-tech legends which would be eager to provide those updates because they want to support the community?

    It's not like I believe that there's so much money out there that it would transform our schools if we could redirect it more effectively, but I still think it could make some difference. And just creating a culture in which our schools were the top priority for all donors in the community would build more sense of ownership and support.

  10. 11:19 here.

    Caroline, it is a sad comment on our time that every school in the district probably needs fibre optic internet access and computer upgrades, yet do not have them.

    We can't run the school system on ad hoc and unreliable private donations.

  11. I could not disagree more with this thread. We (California, not just SF) shouldn't have to rely on private foundations to support public education. Private foundations take more and more accountability away from the state. We should be focused on changing California's 2/3 budget requirement -- THAT is where the long-term impact is. Raising more private money is just a bandaid.

  12. I totally agree about changing California's 2/3 budget requirement, and dismantling Prop. 13 overall too. But I'm being realistic too.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Evidently robo-spammers have broken the blogspot captcha algorithm.

  15. Apparently school sites are being told to discuss site budgets at the teacher inservice day at the end of January, so if you have children enrolled at a school in SFUSD, information about your site should be coming down the pike then.

  16. "The concentration of Asian families ... has also happened because these families have been allowed to declare themselves as ELL, when, in fact, they are bilingual."

    Interesting comment. I work in an SFUSD school with a very high percentage of Asian students, but my experience has been quite the opposite. We have a large number of true ELL students who are not classified as such because their parents choose to claim English as their primary home language when it so obviously is not.

  17. Didn't Caroline Kennedy mobilize Manhattan's elite to raise money for NYC public schools?

  18. Here are two ideas:

    1 - Create a foundation aimed at raising money city-wide, primarily from foundations, corporations and those who do not have children in public schools. Recruit high-profile socialites to make it *the* cool cause to give to in SF.

    2 - Earmark 3 percent of all monies raised by individual PTAs to go into a common fund, then have less affluent schools write grant proposals to get money from that fund for particular projects.

  19. 10:06 - I like your ideas...

    And Caroline's too

  20. 2 - Earmark 3 percent of all monies raised by individual PTAs to go into a common fund, then have less affluent schools write grant proposals to get money from that fund for particular projects.

    How is it equity for schools to be forced to write grant applications for money if the PTA funds are generally given at wealthy schools without applications?

    Honestly. I work at one of those "less affluent" schools and I have raised over ten thousand dollars this year by spending huge amounts of my "vacation" time writing grants. (This does not count the two thousand dollars of my own money I've spent this year.) Writing grants to private foundations or for sites like Donors Choose is one thing. I find it offensive that offering my students the "extras" wealthier schools take for granted can only be funded within SFUSD by writing grants, too.

    I feel like what your proposal implies is that poor schools cannot be trusted to make smart purchases that positively affect students' social, emotional and academic well-being unless wealthier schools help them figure it out.

  21. 9:27 - I think you took the comment the wrong way. I think the poster meant to say that *any* school could write an application for the funds.

    I don't know how else the funds would be allocated otherwise (i.e., would it all go into a pot and then right back to the schools?)

    9:27 - Sounds like you have done a lot for your school - Seems like your school is lucky to have you

  22. Will the BOE need to consider closing schools to address the looming budget gap? Will they have the guts to close failing/underrequested/underenrolled programs like Cobb GE, Malcolm X and Bessie Carmichael Tagolog Immersion?

  23. 9:27: You got it all wrong.

    The idea is that a percentage of all PTA funds raised by all schools would go into a District-wide pot. That pot would include 3 percent of the $230,000/year raised by Alvarado, 3 percent of the $500,000 raised by Clarendon, as well as 3 percent of the money raised from less monied schools.

    Then, schools less able to raise large amounts, could ask for money to fund specific projects and that money could come out of that common fund.

    Not sure I can think of a more fair way to re-divvy the pot.

  24. Oh, and btw... OUr kids go to a so-called "wealthier" SFUSD school.

    And guess what?

    If you want the PTA to fund your pet project, you absolutely have to write a proposal and be prepared to make the case in writing and in person. Not everyone/everything gets funded.