As Sacramento sends less and less money to school districts, California’s schools have come to rely more and more on parents to raise the cash that can mean the difference between enriching science and art lessons or a shortage of basic supplies.
At Alvarado Elementary School in Noe Valley, the PTA pays for school supplies, recess monitors and reading tutors. But while Alvarado’s PTA raised more than $300,000 last year, some parent groups are unable to raise more than a few thousand.
“There are schools that don’t have paper, for God’s sake,” said Todd David, whose children attend Alvarado.
David is a founder of edMatch, a new nonprofit that seeks to use the fundraising power of parent groups to spread some wealth around. Districtwide, parents raise upward of $6 million a year.
EdMatch wants to get corporations and philanthropies to match that, and those matching grants would be distributed across the district, allotted to schools on a per-student basis. The nonprofit also will provide a mentor for each school to help the school community decide how best to use the money.
“Every dollar a parent gives to their kid’s school stays at that school, but then you get a multiplier effect,” David said.
While parent groups raise a lot of money, they rely on their local communities to come to silent auctions and other fundraisers. EdMatch backers argue businesses should be more involved.
“As a good corporate citizen in San Francisco, they have a vested interest in making sure the children who go to public school in San Francisco get the education they need,” said John DeCock, edMatch’s director. “Businesses are an important part of the community, and they should help other parts of the community that are struggling.”
School board member Jill Wynns said the school district did not have a long record of support from local businesses.
“We have one of the lowest levels of private support per pupil of any city in the country,” Wynns said. “We have ways to raise money, but we need to do better.”
While some corporations, including PG&E and Wells Fargo, have given grants to the school district or to individual schools, the idea of direct per-pupil grants to every school in the district is new.
“I think it’s a wonderful, caring idea, and it does fill a niche,” said Terry Bergeson, director of the San Francisco School Alliance, a nonprofit that helps the district use private donations to support major projects. “It’s tough to get the corporations to jump into that mix. But people have to realize that the kids who are in our public schools are going to build this city in the future.”
$6M Funds raised by parent groups annually (approximate)
$260M Funds the district allotted to all school sites this year
$300,000 PTA budget at Alvarado, one of the top fundraisers in the district
$2.4M District budget for Alvarado
Sources: EdMatch, Alvarado PTA, SFUSD 2011-12 budget