Foundations make up for state deficit

Parent-run fundraising groups are mobilizing to raise big bucks forlocal school districts following the news that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to slash state spending on education.

Although the governor’s budget is months away from adoption, education analysts have already pegged K-12 cutbacks at anywhere from $443 to $800 per student. California already spends $1,892 less per student than the national average of $8,973, earning it a D+, according to a recent report from Education Week.

In response, fundraising groups are working harder than ever to find money for schools.

Ever since state voters approved Proposition 13 in 1978, parents have mobilized to raise money to support programs, such as arts and music, which schools could no longer afford. Those groups — most often called education foundations — now raise millions of dollars in some school districts in the county, which have come to rely on foundations for revenue more than before.

“Education foundations and parcel taxes remain the only vehicle a local community has to inject money into their district,” said Elaine Park, secretary for the Redwood City Education Foundation. “In a crisis, the foundation would take on raising funds to preserve programs” or even pay for teacher salaries, she added.

Redwood City’s foundation is aggressively fundraising this year, hoping to garner $350,000 — up from the $250,000 it raised during the 2006-07 school year. The brand-new Ravenswood Education Foundation hopes to raise $350,000 this year, predominantly through donations from Silicon Valley firms.

As foundations become more established, they can raise millions. The Hillsborough Education Foundation, founded in 1980, collected $3.2 million in 2006-07 — a hefty 17 percent of the Hillsborough School District budget, foundation Director Julie Switky said.

Similarly, 7 percent to 8 percent of the Menlo Park School District budget comes from its foundation. That money pays for everything from librarians to in-class teacher’s aides and high-tech classrooms.

“From our perspective, a core educational program is not just reading, writing and arithmetic — it’s arts, technology, foreign language,” Menlo Park Superintendent Kenneth Ranella said. “The foundation enables us to do that, but if it went away, we’d [cut back on] other programs to keep supporting those.”

In addition to raising money, foundation leaders are becoming more powerful politically. Currently, about 20 percent of California’s school-board members once served with such groups, said Susan Sweeney, director of the California Consortium of Education Foundations.

County foundation roundup

Belmont/Redwood Shores School Force

» District: Belmont-Redwood Shores

» Money raised in 2006-07: $354,100

» Money per student: $141

Burlingame Community Education Foundation

» District: Burlingame School District

» Money raised in 2006-07: $675,000

» Money per student: $288

Hillsborough School Foundation

» District: Hillsborough School District

» Money raised in 2006-07: $3.2 million

» Dollars per student: $2,227

Menlo Park-Atherton Ed Foundation

» District: Menlo Park School District

» Money raised in 2006-07: $2 million

» Money per student: $885

San Carlos Education Foundation

» District: San Carlos School District

» Money raised in 2006-07: $938,047

» Money per student: $337

San Mateo-Foster City

» District: San Mateo-Foster City

» Money raised in 2006-07: $195,000

» Money per student: $20

Redwood City Education Foundation

» District: Redwood City School District

» Money raised in 2006-07: $250,000

» Money per student: $29

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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