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.

  1. Individuals can donate to Edmatchsf.org or urge their employers to do so, channeling money to the neediest schools.
  2. Parents can match contributions they make to their own child’s school with additional gifts to a poorer school.
  3. PTAs at affluent and low-income schools can voluntarily become sister institutions, sharing knowledge and resources.
  4.  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.
  5. The school district could prohibit PTA funds from paying and training teachers.
  6. The school district or regional PTA can collect part of or all parent-raised funds and redistribute them through a local education foundation.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition. Buy a copy of the winter 2014 print edition through the website, or consider becoming a member and get every edition for the next year.