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Foundation donates $4.4M to Palo Alto schools

Original post made on Mar 27, 2012

Parent and community volunteers have raised a record-breaking $4.4 million to donate to local public school campuses, the foundation Palo Alto Partners in Education (PiE) announced Tuesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 4:25 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by Ohlone Mom
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 27, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Well done PIE volunteers! We are so grateful to live in Palo Alto and attend Ohlone. We donate every year and I see the ways PIE makes Ohlone a better school if that is even possible. Thank you PIE staff and volunteers.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2012 at 8:05 am

Thanks PiE for your amazing volunteers - and thank you to the generous parents, residents and businesses that donated!! You help make our schools a wonderful place for the students of PAUSD.

Posted by Thanks to parents who volunteer at schools
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 28, 2012 at 9:31 am

Thank you to parents who volunteer at schools, even though they can't donate money to PiE. The time you give to the schools is as valuable as the money given to PiE. Money is not everything.

Posted by Susan
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 28, 2012 at 9:33 am

I'm thankful to be a part of this amazing community and thankful to all of the PiE donors and volunteers for making this happen! Our kids will benefit greatly.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2012 at 9:48 am

@Thanks to parents who volunteer at schools - money isn't everything, but it helps strengthen our schools! PiE is a almost all volunteer organization, over 100 volunteers raised 4.4 million dollars. PiE volunteers DO volunteer at school - that is where they contact the majority of the donors! In addition, I suspect every PiE volunteer is or was a classroom/school volunteer, depending on the age of their child.

Posted by Maybe
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 28, 2012 at 10:29 am

Maybe the schools should start paying for their crossing guards, other resources drained from the city, oh and that 10 million dollar subsidy we provide.

Us citizens would like our parks fixed and our roads redone, seems only fair.

Posted by Prop 13 has got to go.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2012 at 10:54 am

I'm thankful for this good work by our young people. I'm also frustrated that it is necessary. Previous generations of parents did not have to fund raise at this level AND fill in for missing school librarians, and do landscaping projects, and have school auctions that raise $60,000-100,000/year, and transport their kids to overcrowded schools, AND, AND, AND...

Prop 13 has dropped an immense burden on parents. They pay the highest property taxes and they are expected to do all this additional work that previous generations did not.

Prop 13 beneficiaries (that includes me) should pay our fair share of taxes as previous generations did. Those who took from the public school well have an obigation to pay it forward--rather than abandon this generation of students. In addition to enjoying Prop 13 benefits, many seniors also opt out of paying for the bond measure. Shame on them!

These problems must be addressed. A fair system with tax forgiveness based on financial need rather than length of time one has owned property would be more fair.

Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Can PIE provide percentage of PAUSD families who donate to PIE (separate from business and real estate donors) and average amount donated? Also what is actual cost per student at elementary level for the PIE funded items (aides, art, etc)? That is what PAUSD parents need to know so they can understand what their child actually costs the district when they don't donate.

Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I hope the school staff, teachers and students will remember to lock all the windows so that the new equipment isn't defenestrated and absconded* with.

We've already lost enough technology that way.

* Wasn't absconded the "word of the day" recently?

Posted by Special needs
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 28, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Does anyone know how much of the money go toward funding of special needs students? Their aides? Etc.

Posted by Guest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2012 at 11:27 am

Agree that Prop 13 has to go. We are getting killed between property taxes, PIE, PTA, and now this new "Our Children Our Future" initiative. We have to get everyone paying their fair share before raising taxes yet again.

Someone asked what percentage of PAUSD families donates. Well, the $2.35M for the 12 elementary schools translates to less than $200K per school, and less than $400 per child. This is way less than other similar districts raise per child (e.g., LASD, Woodside). It is amazing that it stretches as far as it does -- huge kudos to everyone who works at the schools for so little compensation. The benefits for the kids are tremendous.

We need more people donating -- maybe a competition between grades, as Woodside does? And we need Prop 13 fixed. ASAP.

P.S. A school auction that raises $60-$100K is unbelievable. Ours raises $20K. We should be publishing those numbers.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 29, 2012 at 11:43 am

I wish this was not a talking point.

Donations to PIE are just that, donations. There is no reason to believe that all families must, should, ought, to contribute and even less reason to make it a competition or publish breakdowns or names.

There are many good causes for our money. There are many reasons why families may not be able to afford to donate. There are reasons such as the almost blackmailing attitude of PTAs and library bond fundraisers why many people are against donating to PIE but would rather give to say drama/choir/sports boosters. With the amount of increases in Property Taxes some just can't pay more.

Instead, be pleased that this money has been raised and thankful for what it covers. Anything more is purely divisive.

Posted by Guest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Yes, and certainly the comment wasn't intended to be divisive. There are many reasons why people cannot or will not donate. And the pressure is tough -- it's hard on the fundraisers as well (big kudos to them!). I certainly don't endorse walls of fame/shame. But highly aggregated competitions can be fun and help raise much-needed funds (IMO).

What I wish people understood is that the Palo Alto schools are significantly helped by the PiE funds. If there were no funds, we'd have no art, science, music, library, PE, etc, in elementary school. And omg teacher's aides. Maybe people are okay with their school not having those. But those things don't "just happen". We all pay for them with our donations, because we care. I guess I just assume more people would want them, having raised their kids specifically in a "good school district", and so would pay for them. It would be interesting to hear what people *do* want in their schools, if not that.

It's a good question above about cost for special needs kids. In LASD, it is nearing 20% (!!!) of the total expenditures. See page 23 of Web Link Does anyone know where the PAUSD budget is?

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I think the point that Moira was trying to make is that EVERY student in PAUSD receives PiE funding, whether or not their parents contribute. That means that some students receive a "free ride" when it comes to PiE funding (which pays for aides in the elementary schools, many of the elementary science programs, some middle school electives, some of the middle school guidance staff, some of the high school electives and high school college and career counseling. While parents are certainly free to donate to whatever charity they want, their child benefits from PiE dollars with or without their help.

PiE does NOT pay for special ed aides.

Posted by Guest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I found the PAUSD budget for 2010-2011 here: Web Link

It looks like we spend about $24M on special ed (pp 286-293).
We do get some revenue targeted for special ed (p 32), maybe around $7M, hard to tell.

This is from a total budget of $125M, I think. So about 1/6 on special ed.

(Gifted/Talented does not count as special ed. It is an insignificant $69K.)

Posted by Guest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2012 at 9:27 pm

And here is an eye-opener about the structural deficit we have in our schools: Web Link

Enrollment growth is out-pacing property tax growth, and even if the upcoming tax initiative passes, we are still running significant deficits in the next few years, while running our undesignated fund dry.

We live in a state that is unable to support its schools. Our city can only do so much. We must overhaul Prop 13.

Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Special Education has nothing to do with PIE, these services are required by state and federal laws and this is a completely separate topic.

I'm a fact oriented person, which is not about opinion. What I have always wished PIE would do, and doesn't, is give parents the straight facts on what all these services cost per kid based upon the grade levels. In their donation letters, they give a suggested amount, which is greater than actual amount. This is because so few parents donate as a percentage of PAUSD students that figure is inflated.

Factually speaking, if your child receives the services PIE pays for, you should know the actual amount. You then choose to pay or not. Percentages of participation and average amounts by parents (not local businesses or real estate agents) should be reported, not by actual name.

Now for the opinion, we have a public school system whose "extras" that make the district so notable is funded by a small percentage of the parents. We are fortunate that donations are sufficient to keep the services, but I think parents should receive a statement each year of what X number of kids per family actually costs, because facts are important. Of course their is no legal way to make parents pay their share.

Is this a good way to fund a public school system? No, it allows the wealthy districts to provide advantages that other districts don't have, but that is the current state of CA public school funding. I just am amazed by the amount of people who take the benefits and don't pay for them. Please don't post about the people who can't afford to, I understand that. That is not the majority of parents in this town.

Posted by Guest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm

To be clear, no one (that I know of) is saying special ed is related to PiE. Someone asked a question, and now it's answered.

To address your concern about wealthy districts: the state is in fact working to remove the inequitable system in which wealthier districts have more money per student. This new system will be more equitable, and ergo worse for Palo Alto. See this, for example: Web Link

Posted by TallTree
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 30, 2012 at 7:19 am

If you're upset about the Prop 13 debacle, and want to do something about it, please see this website

it is a tax initiative proposed by the council of Calif PTAs - and it could potentially save all Calif public schools and bring us out of the financial mess we're in.

Please offer to help get signatures, get the word out, and vote for it in November

Posted by Guest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 7:37 am

I don't see how that "Our Children Our Future" initiative helps address the inequity. It just heaps more taxes on everyone. Please see the post above by "Prop 13 has got to go". I don't see how we can endorse more taxes when there's a huge discrepancy in what people are paying today. Let's fix that first.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2012 at 9:07 am

Based on last years enrollment and the most current PiE donation numbers of $4.4 million, every Elementary student receives about $500 in PiE money and every Middle and High School student receives about $320. So anyone donating less (or not at all) is getting "free money" from PiE.

To everyone that donated more than their child received (and many donors don't have kids in school at all) THANKS!!

Posted by Guest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 9:23 am

Palo Alto Mom, are you sure? The numbers I have are that PiE raised $2.35M for elementary schools. The "moderate" projection for 2012 elementary enrollment is 5642 (from page 9 of Web Link

That nets out to $417 per elementary student.

Is my math wrong?

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2012 at 9:26 am

I took the actual numbers of middle and high school student and subtracted that from the Districts estimate of about 11,000 students in total (based on this years number of students).

Posted by Guest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 10:04 am

Yes. It's in large part the growth that's killing us. The PiE funds are getting spread out over more and more people. The number I used is the "moderate" one for 2012, which has traditionally been too low. And it also doesn't include YoungFives, which the $2.35M also covers. So we are at about $400/child.

As our taxes are getting increasingly directed to other school districts, the PiE and PTA funding will be an increasingly significant way to differentiate funding for our schools. So it's important we understand this. I don't understand why our PiE funding is *so* much lower than LASD ($600/child), for example. And Woodside is insanely high.

Posted by Guest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 10:09 am

Which gets me to another point. I really don't understand why our city/district/etc isn't *strongly* promoting overhaul of Prop 13. We advocate for these large state tax initiatives, while Prop 13 is the *only* one that at least keeps the taxes local.

I am a strong believer in equality of opportunity, and we clearly don't have that wrt education in the USA. So it's good we are fixing it. It's just surprising that people here are acting so selflessly, without so much weight on how this will affect our schools, property values, etc. These are very large taxes that are being proposed, and the benefit to our district will be minimal, from what I can tell. (Except the indirect benefit of rising all boats, which of course can be huge.)

Posted by Thanks to parents who volunteer at schools
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 30, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Interesting. My last child will be done with high school in 2 years and come to think of it, it is a bit ironic, this whole thing about prop. 13.

We've owned our house here (that we could no longer afford to buy BTW) for not quite 19 years. So, prop. 13 does protect us a bit now, tax wise. Here is the ironic part:

Keep prop. 13 as it is, and we'll probably stay in Palo Alto, with no more kids in the school system. So, we will contribute a moderate amount of property taxes to the community, but cost nothing to the schools.

Reform prop.13 and increase property taxes on residents like us and the end result will probably be that we'll have to sell our house and move elsewhere less expensive, otherwise we won't survive economically (we are not rich). If this happens, our house will likely be bought by a family that will pay higher taxes than we do, it's true, but that will likely have 2 or 3 kids they will send to the school district for schooling.

Which would be better for our schools?

Posted by Guest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Yes, that's a good question. Is Prop 13 bad for basic-aid districts, where there is minimal or no per-student funding, because it increases the density of children? (In other districts, it's fine, since more students = more funds.)

I expect any overhaul of Prop 13 would implement tax forgiveness based on financial need. So there would be accommodation for the many people in the circumstance you describe.

Given that, I expect a price increase prohibitive enough to cause someone to move would cover a kid on average. (Not all moves involve kids.) So it'd net out okay. But it's just a guess.

I do think that inherent in Prop 13 is more turnover, since the tax benefit keeps turnover artificially low (esp for businesses). I don't see that in and of itself having a significant impact, though real-estate people should be happy.

Anyway, good question. Hopefully they'd run lots of models to establish impact on demographics.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 31, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Yes, we should revamp Prop 13. We can do it in a way that won't force people to move, and will simply get everyone paying their fair share. At great benefit to our schools.

These other initiatives are sending our money elsewhere. Let's keep it local (at least until the state gets rid of basic-aid all together...)

There are many families in Palo Alto moving into hand-me-down homes who are paying almost nothing to educate their kids. And many families of ample means paying very little, just because they've lived there for a while. I don't see how we can raise taxes on everyone before we have fixed this gross inequity. People living next to each other, one paying $25K in property tax with no kids, and the other with a family of three kids paying $4K. I would argue that any new tax initiative (2 percent?!) must either wait until this is fixed, or take into account how much people are already paying for schools, and not ask them to pay even more. I much prefer fixing it first, but if we at least have some kind of cap, then we can still hope to get PiE and PTA donations from those folks who are already paying more than their share. These donations will dry up otherwise.

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