Portland Public Schools foundations raised record-breaking $4.1 million last year (The Oregonian, April 22, 2014)
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By Nicole Dungca
Fundraisers for Portland Public Schools raised a record $4.1 million in the 2012-2013 school year.
All Hands Raised, formerly known as the Portland Schools Foundation, has reported steady increases in donations through the years from its local foundations, which number 44. By comparison, parents raised $2.67 million through foundations in 2009-10.
Dan Ryan, the executive director of All Hands Raised, told school board members on Monday night that private fundraising has become a “necessary evil” in public education in every city. But Ryan reminded them that the organization is the only one of its kind that collects a portion of donations to help address inequities across the district.
After schools raise $10,000, All Hands Raised collects one-third of each local foundation’s donations. That money is then allocated through “equity grants” to schools with more needs, many of which don’t have their own foundations. A total $1.25 million is expected to be transferred to 47 schools as a result of last year’s fundraising, at least $20,000 per school.
The grants fund a variety of positions: community agents for immigrant families, making a language teacher full-time instead of half-time.
King School, a K-8 building in Northeast Portland, is slated to receive the most, with $40,000. Five alternative schools, including Alliance and NAYA Early College Academy, will also receive about $14,000 through grants.
At Cesar Chavez, a grant supported middle school athletic teams in track and basketball. That has helped lead to better academic performance for the students involved, according to principal Lavert Robertson.
While school board members praised the fundraisers’ success, one member said the amount of money underscores how reliant schools have become on private fundraising.
About 118 positions, including 76 teachers, were funded by foundation donations this year. That money is separate from Booster Clubs and Parent-Teacher Organizations, which also hold many fundraisers.
Board co-chairman Greg Belisle thanked community members for all their efforts, but said he hoped the dollars could go toward more “enrichment” in the future rather than making up for losses in state funding.
In the past, critics have also said that levels of private fundraising can be disparate from school to school. Wealthier schools can typically pull in hundreds of thousands of dollars through foundations, while many lower-income schools don’t have foundations at all.
Foundation supporters say Portland is ahead of the game in helping with those inequities. Peyton Chapman, the Lincoln High School principal, told board members that parents have been more eager to contribute after hearing the money will help not only their school, but others across the district.
Transparency about how the funding works has helped inspire more than double the amount of giving over recent years, Chapman said.
Lincoln High School was the largest contributor to the equity fund this year, planning to use about $524,000 for staffing positions. That means the school contributed $171,000 to the equity fund to be shared with other schools.
Jeanie-Marie Price, a spokeswoman with All Hands Raised, said the foundation has gotten calls from all over the country about replicating the organization’s format.
“It makes a difference,” she said. “There are kids who are getting exposed to things that provide academic support, engagement support, and community support.”