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PiE raises $3.4 million for Palo Alto schools

Original post made on Mar 23, 2011

Parent volunteers have raised a record-breaking $3.4 million to donate to Palo Alto's 17 public school campuses, the foundation Partners in Education (PiE) announced Tuesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 12:45 AM

Comments (31)

Posted by Nadia N.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2011 at 9:48 am

Great job to our dedicated PIE volunteers for your efforts! You're making a difference and we appreciate your work!

Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2011 at 10:59 am

Why are donations not reported by school? There is a lack of transparency is donated by parents primarily with students at four elementary schools, and then redistributed Robin Hood-style across all nine elementary schools.

Posted by Palo Alto Socialism
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:11 pm

So many years ago donations made by parents were by school. However this was changed to district wide. This is in effect another wealth transfer mechanism because ironically the schools raising the largest amounts of money are from the more expensive locations whose parents are already paying more local taxes. Welcome to Palo Alto.

Posted by S.PA
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm

This is great news! Our schools will continue to offer all sorts of enrichment to all our kids! Thank you everyone!

To those of you who are "unhappy" about how the money is distributed.....

It's called EQUITY! It's about leveling the playing field. Or perhaps you'd rather see the Rich get Richer and the Poor get Poorer? If you don't like the way the money is distributed, then don't donate! Just because you live in South Palo Alto doesn't mean you haven't made a substantial donation by the way. There are plenty of people in both North and South Palo Alto who are paying plenty in property taxes. Knowing that our donation benefits ALL OUR CHILDREN is what is important. My child has access to all the enrichment and "extras" I can imagine, but I know that my donation benefits all the children in the community and therefore BENEFITS EVERYONE! All this noise in the community about making sure our children are emotionally happy -- perhaps learning about the 41 Developmental Assets and strengthening our community as a whole, will help others to understand how equity plays into it. It shouldn't be about which school generates the most, but how we can all support and nurture and provide for all of Palo Alto's children -- and yes, this includes the Tinsley kids as well!

It just so happens that my children are at a school in S. Palo Alto that had a very high participation rate in the donation drives. I am proud that my school not only provided for the extras at our campus, but also helped out smaller schools, and schools that weren't able to raise as much -- I think that's a good thing.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm

An awesome job by a wonderful group of hard-working volunteers and generous community members, those with children currently in PAUSD and those who do not have students here!

PA Socialism - this is not about wealth sharing, its about making sure all PAUSD students receive and equal education. While some schools raise more than others, it is through donations, voluntary donations.

Mom - the process is perfectly transparent, PiE is very upfront about it. If you donate to PiE, the money will be shared equally among ALL students (BTW, we have 12 elementary schools, not 9, and our 3 middle schools and 2 high schools also contribute and benefit). No one is forcing parents at any school to donate. We have many generous people in our community, despite the negative comments from a select few.

Again, a huge thank you to all the donors and the tireless volunteers!

Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Palo Alto Socialism,

You are absolutely correct. I recommend getting rid of this outrageous PiE system, and changing the school donation model to one in which the teacher allocates his/her time to each student in the classroom based entirely on the amount of money donated by the student's parents.

Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:52 pm

On a more serious note, I want to sincerely thank all those who donated and all of the volunteers who worked on the PiE campaign.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Brian - thanks for making me smile!

Posted by mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Yippee! Congratulations to everyone at PIE for doing such a terrific job. I am proud to be part of a community that gives to children.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm

When I saw this story early this morning, I bet my wife that by the end of the day there would be some short-sighted poster who would complain about who/where the money comes from and then the district-wide distribution.

Shall we create 12 independent school districts within the city? We've all made donations based on the district-wide model and very happy to do so. If you don't like, then don't donate --- instead go volunteer at your kid's school.

Lighten up, Francis! ***

*** A pop culture reference to the movie "Stripes": Web Link

Posted by I'm with Mom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I'm also so extremely proud that the Palo Alto schools area cares so much for ALL its kids. Hooray! :)

Posted by Go PiE!
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 23, 2011 at 6:02 pm

We are so very impressed with the work PiE does and give them a great big thank you for their hard work, which enables ours and the other elementary schools to have dedicated art instruction and caring teachers' aides. Thank you for all you do.

Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Of course the money in a citywide school district should be distributed on a per student basis, however, as someone who was involved with PIE at our local school a few years ago, I do have a few observations.

I never understood why the finances of PIE weren't presented more clearly when the donation letters were sent out. It costs X amount per elementary kid (where the bulk of the money goes) for aides and the other extras, many years ago it was around $250 per kid. PIE didn't state the cost, but instead asked for a larger number (due to the fact that in percentage figures of total students, donations don't come close to matching that amount) or said "but any amount is welcomed".

My point is the vast majority of PA parents CAN pay the $250 per kid (or whatever the current amount is) but don't. The total is reached by business donations, realtors and some very generous individual donations from parents to make up for all those who don't pay. I just think it should be transparent, state the amount per kid, tell what % of people pay that, and then at least people understand that when they don't pay, they left it for someone else to. If you want the benefits, you should pay for your kid (I'm not referring to those who truly can't pay).

Posted by What a difference
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm

The board and Skelly are a lot more happy than when are addressing our social and emotional issues of our kids. Hopefully they used the money to address these needs.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm

PIE upset many people several years ago when the PTA (same group - different name) badgered parents to vote for the library bond. Many people see PIE and the PTA becoming a political organization and this should not be the case. PIE and PTA should not become a political lobby for other non-PAUSD issues.

I am pleased, yet surprised, of the increases to PIE this year. I suspect that many parents are not contributing because they are now paying for the library bond. They are probably contributing to teachers' wish lists and other booster type programs.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2011 at 9:11 pm


PiE and the PTA are totally separate, unrelated groups (although many people volunteer and donate to both). PiE raises funds for the whole district, primarily for additional staff. PTA's and PTSA's exist at each individual school, their primary purpose is child advocacy and they are site specific. Any funds raised at the PTA/School level are spent at that school on "stuff" not staff.

Neither have anything to do with the Library Bond, but libraries in general are related to education, thus something that the PTA would support.

Posted by Nice Job
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 23, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Nice job PIE volunteers and donors. What a great thing you are going for the schools. Thanks.

On the PTA/PIE - agree, totally different, not meaningfully related in personnel, organization, or mission. The PTA did take a position on the library bond as part of their child advocacy mission. It is within their scope, though I tend to agree that they do themselves some harm when they step outside the core school environment. But that's generally the PTA Council types - the school PTAs are usually fairly small groups of tireless volunteers who deserve nothing but our thanks and support.

Posted by more science please
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 23, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Kudos to all the PiE volunteers and donors.

I would like to see the "Science Enrichment" component of the PiE mission emphasized more at some elementary schools. Some of our schools are very devoted to science education, but students at other schools are missing out. I understand that these decisions are left up to the individual principals. However, despite the GOAL of equal opportunity across the district it's still not true. All the schools have Spectra Art, but they don't all have science enrichment. If the teachers say "All I want is to have maximum hours of an Aide" then that may be what the school spends their PiE money on or a focus for more aides for special needs students. Great for the teachers. Not the full experience for all the regular students.

Excellent work PiE! You are helping to keep our district great.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2011 at 9:55 am

I agree that more science enrichment would be wonderful, but as you said, how the PiE money is spent is up to the individual principals (within the PiE defined categories). I spend their time doing paper work, copying, etc. instead of working with the students which is what parents assume they are doing.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:11 am

"...some generous individual donations from parents to make up for all those who don't pay."
You are reprimanding those who don't "pay" ?? -- I think you mean "donate."
EXCUSE ME? This is VOLUNTARY. For your information, perhaps some don't have the $$$ or choose to donate elsewhere. There are many very worthy causes and nonprofits in this world, I assure you.
It is fine and fortunate to have a special nonprofit fundraising org here for PAUSD - I have seen smaller ones that struggle to raise a lot less money. Conditions are very favorable here.
Also, whatever smount is "suggested" I imagine it is similar to other organizations, not based on a specific formula, it is an idea of what they think they can semi-reasonably with a reach, expect to receive. So they list that. It is even optional what the nonprofit chooses to support in the schools, whether aides, art, etc. In some places, these things are foregone, in some places they are cheaper or volunteers offer these services, or they are part of the regular budget. PAUSD has a massive budget.
This is EXTRA from what we property owners pay on our property tax

Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Anonymous, you need to understand what the facts are. Yes PIE is voluntary, but in reality, parents in the district want and expect the aides and other benefits of PIE. So they need to know upfront what the costs are per student and pay that amount (it is possible for majority of students' families) or understand that when they don't pay for their kids, they're being subsidized by others. I always paid my kids share plus an extra amount for those in need. PIE sugarcoats the low per pupil amount by talking about the "percentage" of families participating, but if majority of a school gives say $100 and the true cost is $250, then that school isn't paying it's way. Facts are facts, you want your kids to have the benefits of PA schools, pay your share, don't depend on realtors and big donors to pay for you-that's equitable. I clearly stated that the exceptions are the low-income people (again, not the vast majority of the district).

Posted by pie pta idk
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:24 pm

If PiE donations levels dropped to the point the school couldn't afford aides, the PTA would step in. The PTA at the local neighborhood school already raises more money that it knows what to do with.

Posted by EcoMama
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Voluntary? Hah! Principals have access to the names of who gave and how much. Do you really think these lists aren't used to grant favors? It doesn't matter how the money is distributed. As long as PiE keeps publishing its lists of who have and in what range, it's an inequitable system. Dollars don't equal sense, you know what I mean?!

And the fact of the matter is we DO have umpteen different school districts since there's nothing UNIFIED about how the schools are run. Some schools have anti-bullying programs; some don't. Some have visiting scientists; some don't. Our kids' school has a Spectra art teacher that screams at and belittles our kids, saying things like "That's ugly!" and "Leave my presence!" We're giving PiE money for THAT?

I do applaud PiE for exceeding expectations, but I think that's like commending any high-end fundraisers soliciting the wealthy. Unsurprising. And unless I see PiE making this really equitable by ceasing the publication of names? I'm done giving. (Why? Because a PiE parent had the gall this year to ask why our family didn't give more. Stupid, stupid mistake.)

Posted by Nice Job
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:16 pm

@Eco, it seems like you managed to insult the donors, fundraisers, recipients, and even some of those hired with the funds. That's impressive for a comment on an all volunteer organization whose only purpose is to raise money for our children. I'm sure PIE and our children would be delighted to forgo your gift if you wouldn't mind keeping your venom to yourself. Thanks.

Posted by thankful
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:21 pm

A huge thank you to our Palo Alto Parents and PIE.
You Rock!!

Posted by Shame factor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2011 at 10:02 am

I agree with EcoMama that PIE donations aren't really voluntary. Everyone is aware of who donated what and there is a lot of social pressure on those not carrying their weight. It's distasteful at one level, but on the other hand maybe south Palo Alto communities need more of that to get them to step up. There are obvious cases of financial hardship that should be left alone, but it's hard to defend those with means who aren't participating yet reaping all of the benefits.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2011 at 10:53 am

I strongly disagree with making voluntary giving a feeling of entitlement and obligation. Talking about the shame factor is emotional blackmail.

Many people said that they gave up donating to PTA and PIE as a result of the library bond fiasco. Many do not understand that there is a difference between PTA and PIE since the money is still for the schools and those in charge are supporting both causes. Many prefer to give to teachers' wish lists or sports boosters because that is definitively affecting their own children. Many are even putting the money into math tutoring as a result of EDM. All these reasons are honorable and valid.

People said that they would not give to PIE for all these reasons. Now start listening to why they are not donating rather than putting pressure on them to donate.

The money has been raised and that is fine. There are, from reading the above posts, many people who feel that the money is being spent in the wrong order of priorities. Some feel that art is worthy and it sounds like others feel that science needs more support. This is not going to be a method that will suit all parents as there is going to be disagreement in how the money is spent.

Feel happy to have the money that is raised, but certainly do not feel that those who are not giving should be made to feel shamed as it won't work.

Posted by AnotherMom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Completely agree with Resident.
Many thanks to volunteers, contributors and everybody who makes it work for our kids. We have so many extras in PA and that's why it's a very special district.
From my experience, I feel better to donate through PTA and teachers class list. Lost my job a year ago and by all mean, not have a dime extra. Got 2 calls this year from PiE rep, asking where is my donation. Was reminded that last year I participated and PTA doesn't count?! Very frustrating... Yes, all donations MUST BE respected. And I think that calling call asking for more is absolutely unacceptable. We are poising volunteering portion of the whole process. Otherwise our schools need to publish thecrequirements at the beginning of the year.

Posted by lesson in what socialism is and is not
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 26, 2011 at 6:05 am

No, it is not socialism, because it is a can CHOOSE whether or not to donate.

Socialism is stealing ( taking against the will) from one person and using their money for something/someone else, only instead of by gun or knife, by vote through a government representative.

Having been in the schools for many years, yes, there is a lot of pressure to give and yes many people know who give and who don't..that is a bummer, but that is life in a town.

Good grief folks, if you don't like it, don't donate. Simple.

If you like it, give....

Posted by lesson in what socialism is and is not
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 26, 2011 at 6:08 am

However, as an aside, what I DID highly resent is that as part of the deal to birth PiE, we were no longer allowed to give to a particular school....that was coercive to my mind, cutting out the "local" donor who sees a need and wants to care for it in a particular school.

I resented that part.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm

lesson - you can still donate to a particular school, just not for staff. There are a multitude of reasons that PiE came into being, including huge inequities in the staffing levels from school to school (aides, science instruction, etc. not teachers). Some of our schools are just fundraising machines and some are not.

The other issue was that the District needs to plan for and is obligated to pay for their staff. If a school hires an aide this year and didn't raised enough $$ the next year, the District is libel, not the school.

Ecomama - Students receive the same education whether their parents donate to PiE, PTA, or EPA schools. While it maybe true that a principal may be more inclined to talk to a parent that donates more, the same principal is probably more likely to talk to (and value just as much) an active volunteer. Human nature.

Shame - no one should be blackmailed or made to feel shame for not donating. But many of the "extras" in our schools are paid for with donations. If you don't give and we have a certain fixed amount to pay for, someone else picks up your slack.

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