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Nonprofit guide to school system set to lose funding

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Parents for Public Schools, a nonprofit that helps parents navigate the San Francisco Unified School District, says that changes in city funding priorities could cause it to lose as much as half of its funding. (Courtesy photo)

A nonprofit that for nearly two decades has worked to empower families navigating The City’s public school system is at risk of losing nearly half its funding this year.

In a petition launched last week urging City leaders to restore some $200,000 in annual funding, Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco said that it has “fallen through the cracks of public funding during city department transitions.”

The petition indicates that the projected loss could cause the organization to decrease its services by up to 50 percent, and that the organization is now hoping to be included in the upcoming city budget, which will be finalized in the coming months.

Parents for Public Schools works with newcomer families, leads parent clubs focused on culturally relevant programming, provides language services, hosts workshops on school policies, budget and student enrollment, and covers Board of Education hearings, among other things.

Last school year, the organization hosted workshops attended by some 2,400 parents and provided services to families across 107 schools.

Teresa Arriaga, Parents for Public School’s executive director, said the organization’s services are critical to hundreds of families and that a “series of reorganizations” at City Hall “have left us in a hole.”

About half of the organization’s funding is derived from multi-year grants for services in the early education space, including supports for parents applying to kindergarten. Those grants were administered through The City’s Department of Children, Youth and Their Families (DCYF) and formerly through First Five, the public agency charged with overseeing the City’s Preschool for All and Family Resource Center Initiatives.

The rest of the organization’s budget is derived from public donations, corporations and foundations including $50,000 contract with the San Francisco Unified School District.

About half of the of the funding that is in jeopardy, or some $103,000, was discontinued as the City dollars managed by First Five shifted last year to the Office of Early Care and Education (OECE), which was created to coordinate funding streams and programs serving children up to five years old, said Arriaga.

Additional funding opportunities for the type of family engagement services offered by PPS have not been offered under OECE.

“[They are] on the edge of our core work,” said September Jarrett, OECE’s executive director, who called the organization’s work “unique.”

“Organizations like this sometimes don’t fit neatly into what are often prescriptive funding types,” she said.

Arriaga said that DCYF and OECE have extended funding for the organization through this year so that it could focus on ramping up its fundraising efforts. The organization also applied and pre-qualified for an innovation grant with OECE.

She added that the organization had hoped to apply for ongoing funding from DCYF, but that the department “never released the [Request For Proposals]” for family engagement services, “just for youth programming.”

Last summer, DCYF opened a competitive bidding process for some $76 million in funding over five years, during which it received proposals from 248 agencies, and selected a total of 299 proposals from 152 agencies.

“The types of services we issued our RFP for are not the types of services [PPS] provides,” said Laura Moye, deputy director of DCYF, adding that the department funds “early care and education, after school, and direct services for children.”

Maria Su, DCYF’s executive director, said that PPS recently applied and was qualified as a technical assistance provider for the department.

“Once DCYF reviews the needs of their new grantees, we will definitely bring [PPS] on to support our grantees in engaging parents,” she said.

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