It’s time to unite for equitable foundation fundraising! 

Oregon schools should be fully funded per the Oregon Constitution. Allowing parents to buy teachers for their individual schools overwhelmingly benefits schools that are predominantly white.

Reforming the PPS foundation policy now will open the door for PPS schools to unite as One District in an effort to improve the well-being of all students and families.

Benefits of creating a district-wide foundation:

The current policy allows parents to pay for additional teaching and support staff at individual schools through affiliated and independent foundations, requiring a contribution to the Portland Parent Fund after the first $10,000 raised . While adjusting this percentage to 40% or 50% makes an inequitable system slightly less inequitable, it does not go far enough towards eliminating disparities in supplemental staffing dollars in order to serve all of PPS’s students. 

PPS's per-student funding model attempts to achieve educational equity by allocating differentiated funding based on need, but supplemental funding for staff in individual schools is in direct conflict with this effort. In order to receive a grant, a school’s population must be at least 40% historically underserved and 15% qualifying for free/reduced lunch by direct certification. In the 2022/23 school year, grants distributed to 48 qualifying schools ranged from $10,000 to $15,000 each. In contrast, the 11 schools that raised more than $50,000 through a foundation in 2020/21 serve populations averaging 18% historically underserved and less than 10% direct certification. Even with nearly one-third of all foundation funds going to need-based grants, foundation fundraising undermines the efforts to reduce disparities between schools along racial lines.

It's helpful to look back at how this got started. Families jumped in to address the tangible need for school funding in the 1990’s, a need caused by a series of property tax ballot measures that eroded the local tax base for education. Community support for local schools is valuable and necessary, but the private funding of public school staff is divisive and inequitable. 

Imagine if a private donor said to PPS, “We will give you $4 million dollars, but we will only give it to you if $3 million goes to the wealthiest, whitest communities and the remaining $1 million must be shared by all the other schools.” Our community would likely condemn such an idea. Yet, for over 20 years PPS policy has allowed for essentially this same distribution of resources.

With the current review of PPS’s foundation policy, there is an opportunity for transformational change. What would a truly equitable model for funding additional staff in our district look like? Talk to your school community, reach out to board members, and support the effort to reform PPS’s inequitable foundation fundraising so that we can unite as a community to serve all students in our district.

Call for PPS to reform racially inequitable Foundation Fundraising policies!

Download 2-Page Overview:

Quick Facts

2018/19: The average grant awarded by the PPS Parent Fund was not enough to hire even one half-time teacher. That same year, one school's Foundation funded 3.73 licensed teaching positions.
While some top fundraising schools kept over $300 per student, the PPS Parent Fund grants distributed on average only $56 per student to schools that qualified.

A CLOSER Look at the Data

For data sources used to generate these charts please see the Additional Information page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does foundation fundraising compare with Title 1 funds?

In PPS, Title 1 funds are allocated on a per-student basis to meet the specific needs of students in communities with a high percentage of the population navigating poverty (33% in K-8 schools and 46.9% in high schools). The funds are intended as a lever to address the persistent gap in outcomes between different racial and socioeconomic groups. Foundation dollars, on the other hand, are raised by individual schools to exceed the equity-based staffing allocation determined by the District. And while Title 1 funding has decreased by almost 40% over the last 10 years, the amount of money raised by foundations increased by 40%, with two-thirds of those funds staying at schools that already served the most resourced populations.

Some schools get more money per student from the District than my child’s school. Shouldn’t I be able to make up the difference in per student funding by giving money to the foundation? 

PPS uses a budgeting formula designed to “transform school and student achievement by providing differentiated levels of supports and resources to the schools with the greatest needs” (pg. 180; PPS 2019 Budget Book). This means that in order to achieve equitable outcomes, some schools require additional per-student funding. It does not mean that schools with lower levels of need should make up for these differentiated resources.

While all of our schools are woefully underfunded, we will not be able to address the persistent opportunity gap by allowing individual schools that serve the most resourced communities to continue to purchase additional staff, while Title 1 dollars for the students with the highest needs have continually decreased. Portland parents and community members need to work together to meet the staffing needs of all of our schools. Working in fundraising silos (i.e. funding supplemental staff in individual schools) has been divisive and inequitable within and between schools, and it has distracted the Portland Public Schools community from working together to reverse the decades of disinvestment in our schools.

When there are so many racial justice issues in education, why is it important to focus on foundation fundraising now?

Right now, white parents have shown an increased interest in supporting racial equity and being part of the solution to the racial inequities that have persisted in Portland Public Schools. However, many people don’t realize how PPS’s foundation fundraising model perpetuates these inequities. This informational campaign is intended to raise awareness of how something that can seem positive--like fundraising for public school--has actually been perpetuating racial inequities in our district. Parents have the opportunity to take responsibility for how they show up for public schools, and a first step is to stop contributing to systems that preserve injustice.

What do other districts do?

Most neighboring districts do not allow fundraising for staff at a specific school, including Beaverton, Centennial, David Douglas, Gresham-Barlow, Lake Oswego*, North Clackamas, Parkrose, Reynolds, Sherwood, Tigard/Tualatin*, and West Linn/Wilsonville*.

* These districts permit district-wide fundraising to pay for staff. See more details here.

Why eliminate something that is working for some people, instead of learning from the schools with successful foundations? Why don’t we partner schools? 

Most of the time, the reason that schools do not raise large amounts of money through a foundation isn’t because they lack the know-how or organizational skills to pull off large-scale fundraisers. More often, the communities do not have the same level of funds to contribute to the schools that they love. It would be more beneficial to prioritize advocacy toward sustainable, adequate funding for all schools rather than putting parent time and energy toward raising funds for staff within individual public school communities. Additionally, every tax-deductible donation made to a school foundation reduces the pool of tax funds that serve our neediest schools. While tax-deductible foundation dollars have increased, public school funding and Title I funding has decreased. 

When I donate to my school, I see immediate results for my child. But how can I have an impact on something as big as district or state politics?  

When donations and resources revolve around individual schools, parents rarely have the capacity or the motivation to reach beyond their own school community to work together toward structural change that benefits all kids, regardless of what school they go to. If more families shift their energy to working across the district with a focus on big structural change, we will have a powerful united voice to influence our school board and lawmakers to make the changes needed for equitable education funding. 

Why not wait until we have a replacement funding mechanism?

Now that we have an opportunity to clearly see the inequitable distribution of funds, we as a community have a responsibility to reform this system. If we stop allocating time and resources to targeted fundraising at individual schools, and do so swiftly across the District, we can work collectively to propel action toward fully funding our public schools with an equity-centered plan.  In the meantime, we are gathering suggestions about ways to reform this system; feel free to submit your ideas which we will compile and share with the PPS Board, and sign up to be connected with others who want to help advocate for robust education funding for all of our students.

Won't higher-income schools find alternative ways to fund staffing at their school?

"Foundations are the only approved vehicle for fundraising efforts to 'buy' staff for schools" per PPS policy 7.10.030-P and related guidelines

Will high-income families leave the district or stop donating if they can’t contribute to their own school foundation?

It is possible that reforming the foundation model to increase equity will lead a few families to leave the District or reduce their donations. However, PPS should not justify an inequitable system in order to maintain donations that primarily support predominantly white schools.

What can I do?

We can each take action to keep the pressure on to change this policy so we can move forward as One District, in alignment with our shared values so we realize our Vision for ALL our students. There is power if we unite for change. Here's how you can get started.