Public and private money in San Francisco schools

Unlike some California school districts, which centralize and redistribute funds raised by parents, San Francisco so far has permitted all money raised at a school to stay there. This gives some schools an enormous advantage. School district data show that in 2011 (the most recent year tax records were available), parents of children at just 10 elementary schools raised $2.77 million — more money than those at the other 61 combined.

A very belated post on a great investigative series. This is what I want to research next, a really important issue particularly in California, where school funding is in the very bottom of state per pupil funding. Much of the debate in education centers around the impact of residential segregation on student outcomes and resource inequities between districts. As this investigation shows, inequities within districts are also prevalent: in San Francisco, there are vast differences in the amounts of money that individuals schools can raise from their student body and surrounding community.

By bringing in as much as $1,500 per student, the top fundraising schools appear to have been largely insulated from the effects of budgets cuts. Meanwhile, parents at high-poverty schools such as Junipero Serra are seeing shrinking resources for their children. This means laid-off staff, dilapidated libraries, outdated computers and a dearth of essential supplies like pencils and paper.

This happens in my own district, where there is no lottery or distribution of students as there is in Berkeley and (more halfheartedly) in San Francisco and Oakland. But here, in Albany, the PTAs have agreed to pool funds in response to outcry over the gaps in fundraising capacity between the schools.

Read more: How budget cuts and PTA fundraising undermined equity in San Francisco public schools