Portland parents raise a record $3 million to hire teachers, support schools

Posted on April 6, 2012 in Media Coverage

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By Betsy Hammond

Parents and other volunteers fundraised a record $3 million to help bolster Portland Public Schools next year, primarily to add teachers and other staff, the Portland Public Schools Foundation reported Friday.

That represented a 10 percent increase from just two years earlier and is more money — although not more per student — than was raised in the two other local districts that raise private funds to pay for faculty positions, Lake Oswego and Riverdale. Lake Oswego’s foundation raised $2.2 million last year and hasn’t finished its campaign this year.

A Portland school board rule requires that nearly one-third of the money raised at any school be donated to a district “equity fund” to be shared with schools that have a lot of poor students or that get low per-pupil funding from the district. Forty-three Portland schools will get equity fund grants of $20,000 to $30,000 apiece, including seven of the eight schools that are slated to lose out on federal anti-poverty funding this fall due to budget cuts.

Foundation leaders aren’t sure how Portland parents managed to raise more private contributions for schools this year, said associate development director Ben Furr. More schools established foundations but it was unclear whether that was the driving factor, Furr said.

Lincoln High and Ainsworth Elementary, both in Southwest Portland, traditionally  outraise other schools. Lincoln has five staff members paid for with private contributions this year, while Ainsworth has three. District-wide, parent-led fundraising efforts pay for the equivalent of 32 full-time school employees.

Superintendent Carole Smith has recommended cutting 110 teachers, or 7 percent of the total, for next year to balance the budget.