The foundation benefiting Palo Alto public schools aims to raise $3.9 million from community members in 2011-12 -- the most ambitious goal in its six-year history.
Palo Alto Partners in Education(PiE) raises the money in appeals to parents through schools, as well as in requests to philanthropists and local business.
A "Back-to-School Challenge Grant" of $200,000 will double any gift made between now and Sept. 16, PiE said.
Last year the organization, run largely by parents, donated $3.4 million to the school district -- about 2 percent of the district's operating budget.
The donation supported classroom aides, arts and science in the elementary schools; counselors, electives and mentors in the middle schools; and counselors, guidance and electives in the high schools, PiE said. The group also supports grants to individual teachers, awarding $68,000 to 22 teachers in the fall of 2010.
"California is currently ranked 47th out of 50 states in funding per student so, unfortunately, public financing in our state is not sufficient to support high quality education," PiE President Elaine Hahn said.
"In this economic environment, the PiE education foundation is a necessity, not a luxury, to preserve an outstanding education for our children."
Nearly 80 percent of PiE donations come from families in the district, but the foundation also reaches out to other community members and businesses. In 2010, the foundation said its average donation per family with children in the district was more than $750.
"Donations to our schools via the PiE education foundation fill many gaps and keep our schools well rounded and competitive," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.
"Every student in the district benefits from PiE dollars, which are allocated on a per-student basis to provide equitable funding at each school."
Palo Alto educates more than 12,000 students in 12 elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools. A thirteenth elementary campus houses the district's pre-school and Young Fives Program, and two classrooms inside Lucile Packard Children's Hospital offers a program for kids in the hospital.
PiE was created in 2005 through a merger of the Palo Alto Foundation for Education and the All Schools Fund. The following year it donated $1.89 million to the district, and the donation amount has increased each year ever since.