Elementary school students raise their hands in class.

As California’s public schools have struggled with budget woes in recent years, parents are increasingly stepping up with their own money. In San Francisco, PTA fundraising for elementary schools has increased by nearly 800 percent over the past decade, and many local schools raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from parents. But where does that leave schools with predominantly low-income students, whose parents may not be able to afford to chip in? Is the disparity in private funding among public schools widening the gap between rich and poor?

Jeremy Adam Smith, author of the "Public Schools, Private Money" feature in the San Francisco Public Press
Rachel Norton, commissioner of the San Francisco Board of Education
Carol Kocivar, immediate past president of the California State Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
Robert Reich, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy and former U.S. secretary of labor under President Clinton

  • Skip Conrad

    I guess I gotta ask it, but what is the impact of educating foreigners who are in the US illegally? If we have to fund the education of the entire planet, we’re always going to come up short.
    What are the numbers? What is the cost? Why do we voluntarily take up this cost, on the backs on our own?

    • Bob Fry

      Good question, but don’t limit it to undocumented immigrants. Trying to educate kids with a high percentage of non-native English speakers has to have an impact, better and worse in different areas.

  • Kurt thialfad

    What country is doing education right? What country would be a good model for the US to emulate?

    In some countries the education system is centralized. Teachers are trained by the central gov’t. Curriculum is uniform and standard throughout the country. etc.

    In the US, education is decentralized and under the control of local communities, who make the decisions on teacher qualifications, and curriculum, etc. The state gov’t can throw money at education, as can the federal gov’t, yet control remains with the local school boards, who can turn the money down.

    The only real role the federal gov’t plays in education are the military service academies and consulate schools. Oh, yeah, there was “No Child Left Behind”. We know what a disaster that was. I can see the point some politicians have made to abolish the federal dept of education, since it does nothing anyway. Control is still local.

  • SFreader

    Without our PTA my kids would not have a music teacher, a PE teacher, a computer lab teacher, or new library books – hardly luxury items. So yes, i suppose PTA money does widen education inequality gap – by making some schools less dismal.

  • Chemist150

    How about discussing why the relatively high revenue leads to low performance.

    With CA ranking so low for education where other states have much less revenue but perform much better. What is the reason for that. One can say decouple property tax from school revenue but other states with 3% tax may have a median house price of $150 K compared to the SF median home price of $850K. 1.3% of $850K is much greater than 3% of $150K. About 2.5 times in fact. Or did everyone on this show fail math?

    We need new leadership across the board. Quit blaming the rich for your failures.

    • Bob Fry

      California per student funding is lower than the majority of states, though not near the bottom. So you might want to do some math yourself, or at least google before posting.

      That said, average per student funding and average student scores are not well correlated.

      • Chemist150

        Where is the money going? In other states, property tax also pays for water and waste disposal unlike CA where I pay more than $50 a month for trash and then more for water and sewer.

        The money is being lost somewhere.

        Teach kids competencies and instead of buying them iPads.

      • museking

        Bob, your statement is only correct when looking at education funding which is NOT adjusted to account for local cost differences. It is patently obvious that cost-of-living (gas prices, utility prices, loaf of bread prices) are higher for a lot of Californians than they are for many, many other U.S. residents. CA ranks 49th (when equalizing education spending to account for what that spending can actually buy locally) among U.S. States in per pupil spending for public education. You must take that adjustment into account when comparing expenses between areas with highly variant costs of living.

        As to your point that student spending and student scores are not well correlated, they’re not precisely correlated, certainly, but until Common Core Assessments have been solidly and consistently implemented in 46 States, we won’t have apples-to-apples comparisons of test scores either. Moreover, while I don’t advocate throwing money at a problem, there is an extraordinary correlation between the States which are consistently highest in per pupil education spending (and other public safety net services which keep students fed, healthy, and in safe housing) and the highest performing States in student achievement. This is undeniable.

    • museking

      Dear Chemist,

      I’d like to know which states you are referring to– you should look not only at their property taxes but at other sources of public revenue (such as oil and mineral extraction taxes which fund much of AK and WY public services).

      In fact, CA ranks 49th in per pupil spending among U.S. States, yet some of CA’s scores are merely 43rd lowest or 40th lowest in the nation (whoopee). Based on your logic, CA spends its meager public education resources quite efficiently. That is, of course, if you buy into the premise that the full value of a child’s education into adulthood can be boiled down to the dollars spent per point achieved on a single-snapshot-in-time, multiple-choice bubble test in only 2 or 3 subjects (forget art, music, computers, ethics, civics, history, PE, etc)

      The point of this discussion is that school districts with more financial resources DO perform much better than school districts without those resources– they are typically the highest performing Districts in CA (or else why would the parent (in your example) paying 1.3% property tax (and higher state income taxes and sales taxes) be compelled to donate even more of their disposable income to provide extra services in their schools and make Herculean contributions of their time and energy to organize massive fundraising campaigns?

      • Chemist150

        Pay a teach to teach fundamentals. They don’t need an iPad to take a test or to learn fractions. Money is misdirected everyday in the education system such as iPads.

    • Sandy Piderit

      I don’t think that calling for the relatively wealthy to do more is inconsistent with the idea of calling for new leadership. We certainly need leaders in school districts and in Sacramento who are committed to simplifying funding processes and making them more understandable. We also need to continue to ask the tough questions about equity and inequity.

      Chemist150 asks why other states with less revenue perform better (I assume in school performance, however difficult that is to measure). One reason why is the huge variations in the cost of living in different states, and in cities and towns within a state. Perhaps someone who questions others’ math may need to remember the difference between median, mean, and mode… not to mention standard deviation. I hold an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a PhD in business administration, and I have spent hours upon hours reviewing district and school site budgets over the last 5 years. I have been repeatedly shocked to find out the convoluted formulas and patchwork of redirected funds from one purpose to another and how they impact some counties much more severely than others.

      For example, much of the revenue that voters have been told goes to education has actually been siphoned off to pay for other state debts (to cities and counties, for example). This has meant that school districts don’t get the money that the state is budgeted to send them on a timely basis, and then districts have to borrow from banks to cover their payroll until the state can get its payments out to the districts. Sometimes the state deferrals are as long as 11 months! And the districts that are hardest hit are the ones that don’t have supplemental sources of funding from donors to PTAs and to foundations.

      All of this math has led me to get behind Educate Our State in advocating to close just one of those loopholes, by gathering signatures to put an initiative on the ballot in November. If you see someone in an orange Seussical hat in your neighborhood in the next few months, raising awareness of the need for change, read their information. Ask a few questions. You may be shocked at what you learn as well.

      Here’s the link to the Educate Our State 2014 Initiative website.


      • Chemist150

        Clearly the money is siphoned away. With more revenue per child, each child still gets less compared to other states. So I’m told.

        If all the taxes passed for education actually went to education, the system should be the best funded system around.

        Whenever a prop comes up promising money to education. I immediately vote against it because I want to know what happened to the others that passed.

        It seems like a bait and switch. It’s good for two years and then appropriated to another cause and they ask for money for education again.

        • museking

          Except, Chem150, that THIS initiative was written by a group of parents who got smart (like yourself), figured out how the money is getting siphoned off, and wrote a public ballot initiative to close the loophole. THIS is one initiative worth collecting signatures to qualify for the ballot, AND voting to pass!

  • $22911251

    The answer to the question is NO. Once again the academic “work” from UCB Greater Good Science Center is pop science not good science.

    San Ramon middle schools score at the highest academically yet they are funded as a rural district receiving one of the lowest per student formulas in the state. Their PTA is not an active fundraiser, instead parents write checks at the start of the year.

    • museking

      Whether the private fundraising is called PTA or parent donation doesn’t matter, it’s the same result and the answer to the question is still ‘Yes’, private donations (from whatever source– for so-called public charter schools, much of the incremental private funding is from foundations) for some schools and not others certainly, by definition, does increase inequities in funding and (if it’s spent wisely) in quality and service provision as well.

      • $22911251

        first compare the base level ADA per student for rural versus urban and then I will listen to you. Dramatically lower.

        • museking

          But base level ADA does not represent the total public revenues available for districts to spend plus there can be equally dramatic cost of living disparities to consider bet/ rural and urban districts. Can you tell me what district you’re in? I agree that if your district has remarkably lower public funding than other districts per student (with equivalent needs) then incremental parental donations and private funding would help alleviate funding disparity. However, that is seldom the case. It is far more often the case that parental/private fundraising capabilities are far greater in districts which are already relatively wealthier in total public funding relative to their student population’s needs.

  • Strandwolf

    It’s about time parents stepped up to support the educating of their spawn. Screw public education…it has been shown to be intellectually bankrupt: the evidence is legion.

  • Moggy

    I think we all need to start looking at the LARGER picture. The
    United States military budget for 2014 is 612.4 billion dollars.

    As parents have Bake Sales for basic things like field trips and
    computers for classrooms, Senators and Congressmen allot billions of
    dollars to defense contractors for ridiculous things like F-35 fighter

    Until we elect senators and congress people who aren’t controlled
    by Defense contractor lobbyists, schools and children will not be a
    priority. Let’s do what the PTA is SUPPOSED to do and lobby hard for the
    United States to focus its priorities on its own people and educating
    its children.

    It is sad that we all seem to accept that having to raise money for our schools is a normal thing.

    There needs to be nationwide outrage about what this country spends
    money on, as schools struggle for money for paper and as class sizes

    • Bob Fry

      Yahoo news today has a report that 1/4 of Americans think the sun orbits around the earth. I wouldn’t doubt it…and you bet most of those people think the earth is 6000 years old and vote for representatives that demand more spending for war and nothing for education.

  • Strandwolf

    No child of mine would set foot on public school property unless hir really wanted to. Computerized instruction is the solution to the debacle.

  • jurgispilis

    Another aspect is the high number of non-English speakers attending our schools. This is a task we assume by choice. We do not need to be a welcoming state, and can be like other states/countries who put their own first, and import new settlers based on the ability of the society to absorb these new members – including the language issue.

    • museking

      Hmmm, put our own first. It seems like that’s what we have done… we allow the Spanish-speaking poor folks to come in and pick our strawberries while exposing them to toxic pesti/herbicides, paying them indentured servant wages and denying them basic benefits (healthcare). This is to keep food prices low for the American public while allowing giant agro-businesses to reap giant profits. You’d get a lot of whining from for-profit corporations if you restricted their cheap labor supply. If we need these folks for our country’s food supply, the least we can do is give their children a good education and some basic healthcare so that they can grow up to be contributing citizens.

      • jurgispilis

        So you agree it’s a scam. i for one, am against it. We need to have zero tolerance for illegal labor. And we have enough citizens as is.

        • museking

          I’m not sure I can agree since you haven’t specified what the ‘it’ is. I’m supposing the ‘it’ is allowing businesses to hire illegal residents. If so, that’s what you should be opposing. This discussion is focused on how to provide great public education to all CA children, regardless of the financial means, educational backgrounds and fundraising capabilities of the communities in which they live.

          • jurgispilis

            The “IT” is illegal immigration and human smuggling. It enslaves the victims, rewards the drug cartels, enriches various corporate and business interests, corrupts politicians.

            How do you provide a great public education to all CA children, when many have been smuggled into the country?

  • Audrey Wallace

    I am a parent at J Serra. Hi Jeremy! Thanks for this program. I thought the most interesting point in Jeremy’s article is that SF public schools are getting less diverse, even with SFUSD’s efforts to do the opposite. Can you ask the guests to speak to this issue in relation to PTA fund-raising and programs, enrichments and staff that are funded by PTAs?

  • Diane Z

    Thank you for bringing up Foundations, they also contribute greatly to the inequality. Also consider talking about Basic Aide funding and the large difference between living in SF versus Marin County.

    • museking

      Yes, thank you Diane– the euphemistic term Basic Aid is anything but. Basic Aid districts should more accurately be called ‘Excess Funding’ Districts because they represent the wealthiest 10% of CA school districts who raise more in local school property taxes than the State’s mininmum funding guarantee (now the LCFF base allocation by grade tier). Those Top Decile funding districts get to keep all of the excess property taxes that they raise over and above the State minimum funding level and for some of those districts, even that base property tax funding level is 3X the State base grant per pupil. Because they are wealthier districts to begin with, these Districts often also have a supplemental parcel tax, an Ed Foundation, and massive private fundraising capabilities as well– and those private fundraising channels can influence spending decisions (behind the scenes) in their ‘public’ districts as well.

  • puzzled_in_palo_alto

    How much of the funding inequity for California public schools can be attributed to effects of Proposition 13? A retired California teacher whom I know voted for Prop. 13 because of the reduced property tax her mother would pay. This surprised me because 80%+ of the children she taught were impoverished Hispanic children (like her own) who likely would fare less well under Prop. 13. than before the measure was passed. I guess blood really is thicker than water.

  • MadlyBranning

    My child attends one of the ten San Francisco elementary schools that raise so much money. I do have mixed feelings about the inequality issue (although the school actually has a fair percentage of low-income students). I think if the funds were all sent to one centralized fund the total amount raised would drop. As I understand it, in Albany there are just a few schools involved. Along the lines that there should be bridges built between these PTA’s, perhaps they should engage in joint fundraising in partnerships or small groups. Just a half hour walk away from my son’s school is one of the schools with no PTA at all, and a very low income population. Perhaps our PTA (which is very well organized and well-supported by the parents) could help them.

  • ItIsMeee

    I think a lot of commenters here are missing the point. This discussion is not necessarily about whether parents should stop helping to fund schools but about the different experience students have within a school district, a county or even the state because of the current situation.
    It shouldn’t be acceptable that students have an entirely different experience at a PUBLIC school depending on whether they live on one street or another…

  • erictremont

    I believe the concern about school fundraising via the PTA is way overblown, as it is far less important in explaining student performance than the cultural factors that will be discussed in the 2nd hour of today’s Forum program.

  • Lorraine

    This report is too simplistic and in no way represents the overall picture of resources allocated to our San Francisco schools on a micro or macro level.

    The Weighted Student Formula is but one of many streams of funding for schools – it does not include funds from the central office allocated to our schools – like special education.  Virtually ALL of the schools listed on the bottom of the list compiled receive Title 1 funds from the Feds. My school lost $200,000 in Title 1 funds in one year when I was a PTA president. The students those funded helped were still there and needed help – this prompted our PTA to ramp of fundraising.

    I fear this series risks demonizing volunteer parents – parents that make up are dwindling middle class in San Francisco, and parents that are among a small group of activists to make our city viable for ALL children and families now and for the future.

    What about the dozens of organizations that are proving services at the schools on the bottom of this compiled list? The PTA (a VOLUNTEER organization) is but one of dozens – if not hundreds – of nonprofits serving SFUSD not reflected here. The report is woefully incomplete and skewed. Let’s focus on the bigger picture: Our state underfunds public schools.

  • Mark Bünger

    I am a very very lucky parent of 3 kids at one of the “top 10 donor” schools. Our oldest started K in 2005 and our PTA budget was about $40k. As the district and state made cut after cut, we came together as a community and today the budget is maybe $200k. I want to emphasize the importance of individual leadership by a few outspoken, passionate parents who gave the rest of us the vision and confidence we needed to write bigger checks, but also find very creative ways to get other sources of funding (e.g. from local merchants donating to an auction). Most importantly, we also contributed our time and skills, and I would estimate that the implied value of our efforts vastly outstrips the dollars we donated. It does not feel like extra work because we LOVE the opportunity to see each other and do something constructive together at the same time. We could be having barbecues and playdates at each others houses, but we are at the school digging in the garden or helping sort books in the classroom. We have parents that range from hedge fund millionaires to Muni drivers and we’re all in it together. Other parents made public education their calling, and did start/join great organizations like Educate Our State. My point is, leadership is not a complete replacement for funding, but it does go a long way. It’s also an incredibly inspiring embodiment of community. We should be helping more parents at more schools learn this kind of leadership, because we will never be completely able to rely on city or state support. I realized that schools create leaders and teach skills among parents as much as they do among the kids. When parents get active, SFUSD schools can easily outperform private.

    • museking

      Dear Mark,
      If we give up and believe that ‘we will never be completely able to rely on city or state [public] support’ then we abandon the concept of public education. CA proved that when a majority of citizens perceive the benefit of a well-educated general populace– as CA did from the 50s through most of the 70s, and under the inspiring leadership of our current governor’s visionary father– we CAN publicly fund an excellent, top-tier public education system, through the University level. It is only public passivity (dare I say indolence?) and the disproportionate political influence of a voting minority (both from Prop 13’s super majority requirements for raising but not lowering public revenues as well as the increasing influence of large political donors).
      I applaud Educate Our State for not compromising on the principle of truly public education. Any proportion of public-private ‘partnership’ in education will naturally introduce some level of inequity.

      • Mark Bünger

        Hi Museking, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I’ve been thinking about them over the weekend because you’re right, and I don’t want to give up on the idea of public education (especially) or any of the other things we hope and expect to create collectively. Maybe if we all acted with as much urgency on the long-term, systemic issues you mention like Prop 13, passivity, and disproportionate influence, we wouldn’t have to deal with short-term crises.

        What I arrived at, and I hope is useful, is that we need to not lose sight of those long term hopes while we need to be prepared to make the short-term scrambles to compensate when the ideal fails.

        When the principal says programs will be cut next year, the PTA has an obligation to at least try and fix what it can right now through fundraising as well as thorough protesting (we did a lot of both) right away. And again, I can say that as stressful as it was, we made some phenomenal friendships and became better persons for having done it together. So yeah, I am making lemonade out of the lemons 😉 Thanks again for your comments.

        • museking

          Thank YOU, Mark, for being involved (and for protesting!). I hope you will consider involving your school’s volunteer community in qualifying a CA ballot initiative submitted by Educate Our State which will improve the stability and reliability of public education funding for the poorest 90% of school districts. It’s called The Protection of Local School Revenues Act of 2014. Learn more at http://www.yesforeducation.org or write to initiative@educateourstate.org to find our more about participating on the volunteer signature gathering team to qualify the initiative– another way of making lemonade with the lemons (and then planting the seeds for more lemon trees!) 🙂

  • sosnewark

    I came to the Bay Area 16 years ago from Sweden and are raising 2 children here in Newark, a not very wealthy community.
    Example: the Junior High in Newark pleads for a contribution of $ 25 per kid per year,
    while the Los Altos Education Foundation demands $ 1000 per kid per year.
    My kids have not had art in school. The PTA gives the teachers copy paper.
    To me the inequality is shocking and I believe even Mitt Romney called it the Civil Rights issue of our time. To make change happen, the Educational Foundations should be forbidden. I know it sounds drastic, but wealthy parents do not have any skin in the game, and have no interest in change, they have cheap private ‘Public Schools’.

    • SFreader

      I am also not originally from the US, so I am navigating the local education system as my kids move from grade to grade. I agree, it is atrocious that one school benefits from its ability to collect $1,000, while another struggles to get $10. However, Educational Foundations are not the source of all evil, but rather a symptom of a completely dysfunctional system.

  • anonymous

    Please return to the topic of inequality rather than tips for how to raise money. The assumption that all adults, even all childrearing adults see all children as their community is a nicety that perhaps only white privileged adults who dare assume out loud. The reality in Berkeley Middle schools is that the school in the wealthiest area is able to bring Prince Charles to visit their dining commons thanks to generous PTA and foundational support while another middle school does not even have a legitimate theater.

  • NO! PTA Money can only be considered one-time. PTAs MUST renew their budgets every year and cannot obligate future PTAs, meaning funding has to be only for that year. If a subsequent PTA decides NOT to fund a teacher or other needed program, then it is lost and either the school district makes up the difference or that school loses the resource.

  • Audrey Wallace

    It’s true that inequity exists in schools based on fund raising potential; however, my kid is getting a great education at J Serra. We don’t have all the bells and whistles of other schools but we have a wonderful principal and fabulous teachers. I’m thankful every day for the loving school community we have.

  • sfpublicpress

    Thanks to Forum for airing this important program. Read more stories in the project on the San Francisco Public Press website, including infographics and photo essays:

    How Budget Cuts and PTA Fundraising Undermined Equity in San Francisco Public Schools
    Debate in 2014: Use State Windfall for S.F. Schools to Aid Poorest Students, or Raise Teacher Pay?
    Infographics: School Fundraising in S.F. by the Numbers
    Albany School District Levels Parent Fundraising Playing Field
    10 Solutions to Inequality in Elementary School Fundraising
    Photo Essay: Two PTA Presidents, Two Realities

    See the whole project:


  • Wei Chuang

    I think this discussion has lost sight of how foundations are a proxy for choice, in a time when due to teacher job protection, its becoming increasingly difficult to remove bad teachers. I choose to have my child in the future go to a district with a strong foundation, not because I want to pay more money, but because I view the parents there as caring about their kids eduction, have a strong PTA, and trying to use what levers they have to make sure the teachers are effective.

  • Chemist150

    How about paying a teacher to teach kids basic competencies like fractions instead of buying them iPads?

    • museking

      How many public schools in CA have you entered lately, Chem150? None of our District’s public schools give the kids iPads. There are a small handful in the library to use for looking up and finding books (old-fashioned paper books). The iPads take up less room than the old-fashioned card catalog bec/ our school is so overcrowded (built to provide classrooms for 250 kids but now squeezing 375 kids into it and its tiny library).

      • Chemist150

        They’re doing it, they’re talking about it.

        You may try NPRs segment:

        “A School’s iPad Initiative Brings Optimism And Skepticism”

        Where they’re bringing iPads to the poorest districts (Coachella Valley)

        Or check out:

        “L.A. Unified’s iPad rollout marred by chaos”

        I stand by my statement.

        • museking

          Chem150– This is not the issue, this is not a common occurrence. I”m wondering if the school where they’re doling out iPads is a charter school, perhaps for-profit, I’m suspecting. Just bec/ some folks are doing it and some folks are talking about it, does not mean it’s wide-spread. I agree with you that students need well-trained, skillful, knowledgeable teachers first. It’s a good point but I think the issue is that CA does not put enough money into its public education system to pay teachers well and have retain small enough class sizes for those teachers to be effective. However, some kids learn with iPads, some don’t– what we need is a system that allows for many learning techniques to be utilized, not a one-size-fits-all system.

  • I’m an Oakland Unified School District parent, and we’ve been working for five years on a project to try to address the K-12 public education funding problem in California: the Ride for a Reason. We’re a group of parents who were fed up with cuts to education and the continued dismal underfunding of public education in California. So we started an annual bike ride from Oakland to Sacramento to protest and raise awareness. We were frustrated by how wealthy public schools could respond to funding cuts by digging deeper and using the PTA to offset the worst effects of cuts, but that other schools in poorer neighborhoods couldn’t do that. We raise money for six OUSD schools. Check us out on the web: http://rideforareason.dojiggy.com

    • Sandy Piderit

      Looks like a great program, Paul! I will mention it to some bike riders I know.

  • Paul Nichols

    I very much dislike the framing of this conversation, as if involved parents who are generous enough to donate their time and money to their community are somehow committing social injustice.

    • museking

      They are certainly contributing to social injustice, but who can blame them when CA legislators and the Governor have been complicit in underfunding public education in CA for decades. Political inertia and public ambivalence are involved… Parents should join http://www.educateourstate.org and support the parent-led movement to influence public policy around education funding starting with the initiative http://www.yesforeducation.org
      p.s. I’m saying this as a parent of 2 public elementary school children and as an ‘uber volunteer’ and fundraiser for our public school district.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Thank you Paul Nichols for such a wise comment.

  • Moggy

    Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy isn’t a PTA school, is it? (It didn’t used to be, when my kid went there.)

    • Kathy Bruin

      HMCRA has a PTO – it’s not part of the National PTA structure.

  • Teri Olle

    As is often the case, I agree with Lorraine — this issue is complicated, and to call out well meaning parents as the cause of inequity because they’re the easiest target (most susceptible to guilt?) distorts the bigger picture and the point. Inequality starts WAY before the parents get involved. Policy makers aren’t willing to tackle that with meaningful investments (pre-K, for starters) and while we’re at it, addressing the root causes of the achievement gap — income inequality. So out of frustration we place the messed up world at the feet of parents to fix or feel bad about? The parent fundraising is small potatoes compared to the these larger needs that, if addressed, would actually make a difference in kids’ lives.

  • ProBizProFuture

    What’s uniquely odd about the discussions of education in San Francisco is how ill-informed they are. Why doesn’t anyone ever mention that San Francisco spends only 18% of its total property tax on its schools? Compare that with San Mateo County at 33%, and Santa Clara County at 52%. (For those who are following the VLF Swap issue, these numbers are net of the school property tax taken out by the state to pay its own debts.)

    Before saying, ‘well, they’re so rich and we’re so poor,’ note that San Francisco collected about $2,024 of property tax per person in 2010-11, while San Mateo County collected about $2,046, and Santa Clara about $1,768. (Los Angeles collected $1,122, if you’re curious.) So, no, you’re not “so poor.”

    San Francisco is the second richest per-capita property tax county in California … AND … has the smallest percentage of school-aged children at 9% (vs. 17% in the other counties and statewide) … AND … has the smallest percentage of school-aged children in public schools (68% vs. 75%, 79% and 81%, respectively). Oh, and San Francisco paid $2,900 in personal income tax per person, under San Mateo’s $3,300, but ahead of Santa Clara’s $2,500 and LA’s $1,200. So there’s no excuse.

    In fact, San Francisco spends $5,000 to educate each of its public school children, vs. $5,900 in San Mateo and $5,400 in Santa Clara counties. Were San Francisco to allocate the 33% San Mateo does, that would be over $9,000. 52%? $14,000.

    However, San Francisco does spend an impressive amount on city and county services. If this is where your priorities are, stop complaining about PTAs. If it isn’t, demand that an appropriate amount of your property tax go to your schools. For example, the 34% that the assessor showed in the annual reports would be an interesting start.

    • Sfedblog

      You didn’t take note when you made the same false statement on Free Press. Though LCFF uses the state funding formula of the previous revenue limits as a starting point, district property taxes do not contribute proportionally to districts. The state sets the amount that a district is apportioned. This was the result of the 40 year old landmark Serrano case that led to legislation, the state takeover of education finance and a more ( Serrano Band) if not entirely equitable system.

    • Sfedblog

      ProBiz – This is the system before LCFF, but the new levels are based on the old.
      The Bucket Analogy

      State and local funds are combined to make up a district’s revenue limit funding. A simple analogy can help illustrate this. Imagine a bucket. Each district has a different-sized bucket, representing its individualized revenue limit. Revenues raised through local property taxes are dumped into the district’s bucket, and if the bucket is not filled all the way, the state comes by and tops it off with state tax revenues.

      If the bucket is completely filled by local property tax revenues, the state has no need to “top off” the bucket. If the bucket overflows with local property taxes, the district gets to keep the overage. Districts whose buckets are filled by local property taxes are called “basic aid” or “excess revenue” districts.
      Ed Source

  • Sfedblog

    While some schools do raise more private money, other schools get far more from the District to begin with.

    Using the schools in the Free Press article written by Jeremy , Junipera Serra gets $1,730,400 for 282 students while Grattan gets $1,692, 728, for 390 students, SPED excluded. Per pupil JS gets $6,136 and Grattan gets 4,340. The amount of private money at Grattan only reduces the extra Serra gets by half. Mission High School receives $9,167 per student from the district while Lincoln HS gets $5,611.

    Those who want to grab the private donations and distribute them across districts are riling up the readers by talking about private donation inequities while totally ignoring the vastly larger disparities in per pupil WSF and categorical funding that works to the benefit of those schools without large donations and it does so to a much larger degree than private dollars. You are engaging here in propaganda by failing to report the whole story of school funding.

    The easily fooled public may believe that private donations are an inequity based on this news agenda, but SFUSD insiders are well aware that the so-called rich schools get the butt end of the budget deal.

    If you want to donate to your church or community center how would you like it to be told that your donations must go to a central donation authority? Who is going to be responsible for deciding how and where this money is spent -the Board of Education, a central PTA? This is a money grab – no less. Get the private funding and turn it into virtual tax revenue to be spent by politicians. And, of course, money is fungible, so it is just like dumping it into the GF.

  • Sfedblog


    I think you need to go check your facts on ed finance because the following statement is false:

    “The Weighted Student Formula is but one of many streams of funding for schools – it does not include funds from the central office allocated to our schools – like special education.”
    The WSF generates from SFUSD’s Unrestricted General Fund and most of that comes from state apportionments (former revenue limit money) that goes directly to the central office.

  • Sfedblog

    It should be noted that Iverson makes a false statement when he says near the beginning of the show that Grattan has a smaller teacher to student ratio (smaller class sizes). That just isn’t the case, but hey, when should facts get in the way of masquerading an agenda as an argument?

    • Sfedblog

      Fact check = by coincidence Grattan and Serra both have right around 17 certificated FTEs and one school has considerably fewer pupils.Guess which school has a smaller teacher-to-student ratio. Not the one you said, Mr. Iverson. Sheesh.

  • Sfedblog

    EdMatch was mentioned by Jeremy Adam Smith who said the funds are being used to redistribute and make up for PTA inequities (in so many words), yet this is what it says on the EdMatch website:


    edMatch is a local, grassroots organization that challenges corporations and private philanthropists to “match” funds raised in San Francisco’s public schools, then distributes the matching funds to all the City’s 112 schools on a per-student basis.”

    This is just one of many inaccuracies in Mr. Smith’ s reporting on this issue.
    I think a lot of people misunderstand these issues in general. For example, Grattan was able to leverage its donations to weather the economic storm because PTA money is more flexible and can be used to back fill more effectively during times of cutbacks. Serra was not able to do this and cutbacks meant staff reductions, though it was still well ahead of Grattan in class sizes due to its larger total per pupil funding.

    Too bad Forum didn’t use its microphone to present a more balanced perspective on this issue. One glaring omission in the discussion was accountability for private money. When I donate to my PTA I can go to the meetings and review the usage of dollars. If I donate to some larger authority I lose any connection to how these funds are spent or at least that connection is substantially weaker. And this is important because funding can be put to different uses, some of which I may support, some not. Some PTAs use funding to promote achievement – others like to remodel the bathrooms.

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