During a town hall meeting last week at International High School, Superintendent Tony Smith talked about Portland’s efforts to make school-based fundraising more equitable. He said each school could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that anything over that cap was diverted to needier schools.
Well, he was partly right. I just got off the phone with Beryl Morrison, who’s president of the Portland PTA and a board member of the Portland Schools Foundation. Here’s the story:
Portland’s PTAs do not have a cap. But some schools, in addition to a PTA, have established local school foundations – school-based organizations that can legally fund teaching positions (on the district’s payroll). The foundations were established in 1995 by the Portland school board.
Of every dollar a local school foundation earns above $15,000, one-third of the money flows to the Portland Schools Foundation — and, later, to other schools. Right now, some of those proceeds are distributed based purely on need (a school’s socioeconomic make-up, as well as the size of its PTA budget, if it even has a PTA), and some money is awarded through competitive grants.
Morrison has an interesting perspective, as a leader in both organizations. She said that, for the most part, PTAs and local foundations tend to work well together; it helps that they usually raise money for different purposes. “It has been very favorably received,” she said.
She said this system was created because the disparities between the haves and the have-nots was so great. “It’s really easy to live in a bubble in your school,” she said.
What do you think of this model?
Stay tuned: Later this week, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about the expansion of the Oakland Small Schools Foundation, and how ed funds in some other cities operate.
Note: As someone graciously pointed out to me, I neglected to mention the existence of the Marcus Foster Education Fund in an earlier blog post on the topic. The Oakland-based organization supports a number of projects, including Family University, college scholarships and the Fund for Teachers. Founded in 1973 by the Oakland superintendent who was assassinated that same year — and later named after him — it was apparently one of the first ed funds in the country.