The School Foundation “Reform” Hurts Every Student in PPS

The PPS School Board is currently considering a proposal to severely curtail or eliminate school foundations.

This is a proposal would hurt every student and school in the district and disproportionately impact our highest need students and communities.

Bottom Line

Don't let anyone convince you that eliminating School Foundations is good for PPS and our kids.

This "reform" will result in major budget cuts that will eliminate 32 full-time positions. Let’s stop talking about cuts and start increasing funding for EVERY school in PPS so ALL PPS students receive quality education.

We must join together to raise PPS funding and ensure ALL PPS students receive quality education. 

Five Reasons Why Eliminating or “Reforming” Local School Foundations Hurts Every Student in PPS

  • Cuts millions in funding for PPS schools 

  • Disproportionately impacts our highest need schools and communities

  • Further divides our school district into silos of “haves” and “have nots”

  • Creates larger class sizes and cuts critical supports for teachers

  • The proposal is unrealistic and irresponsible

Background and Agreed Upon Facts:

Rhetoric like "it's not fair that rich schools get to buy teachers" sounds appealing but isn't born out by fact. Here is what every PPS parent/supporter should know:

  • Every school in Portland is underfunded due to regressive ballot measures passed in the early 90s.

  • Local School Foundations in Portland were created 20 years ago in response to the cuts in school funding, shifting a portion of the financial burden to local communities. Parent fundraising works to meet this need and should continue to provide critical funding for the district. 

  • "Buying Teachers" is not accurate reflection of what's happening and commoditizes human beings who rely on foundation funding for their livelihood.

  • School principals hire full and part-time teachers, educational assistants, counselors, media specialists, librarians, office staff and more to help students succeed.

Let’s Implement a Thoughtful Approach with Solutions That Preserve Current Funding Mechanisms

  • First, we must involve the whole PPS community in this conversation. This proposal would impact every school in PPS and every school community should have a chance to have their voices heard.

  • Do not limit the amount of money School Foundations can raise and contribute to the Fund for PPS. This hurts everyone.

  • Be creative. Let’s stop talking about cuts and start talking about how we can increase funding for our public schools:

    • Grow the Fund for PPS into a powerhouse fundraising entity that harnesses the generosity of our local community, corporations, and foundations. These private dollars could provide funding to schools without School Foundations or equity funding from PPS.

    • Before we make any changes to School Foundations, we must ensure the Fund for PPS is bringing in sufficient funds. This concept is untested, and it will take time to grow the Fund for PPS so it can fill the substantial funding gaps that will result from eliminating the flow of School Foundations funding into the district. So, until then, we must keep the Foundations running and make a gradual and thoughtful transition so we can: 1) Keep donations flowing into the district; and 2) Retain the trust and engagement of our donors who are passionate about supporting their local schools. When PPS demonstrates the Fund for PPS is meeting the needs of all schools, we can begin to reframe the behavior and mindset of our donors. 

    • While we’re working on building the Fund for PPS into a funding powerhouse, we can take the following actions to ensure our Local School Foundations remain successful in filling our funding gaps with private dollars from the community:

      • Encourage mentoring between school foundation volunteers

      • Increase support, resources, and training from Fund for PPS staff

      • Increase local business engagement

      • Execute joint regional fundraising events

  • No cuts. No reduction of FTEs at schools with Local School Foundations. Any plan eliminating, reducing, or capping Foundation-funded positions must be accompanied with a budget line item that would keep these positions intact. Based on FY 2022 year, this would take more than $4 million dollars.

Responses to commonly asked questions/statements

We agree! We fully support more funding going to schools with higher underserved populations and lower grade completion rates.

Based on the past several years' funding data, schools with a higher percentage of affluent families receive less funding per student, which makes sense!

The problem is we still have underserved students at ALL schools, along with students with special needs and/or learning differences. With less funding per student at affluent schools, those students are getting left behind.

Foundations do not "buy" teachers. Parent volunteers work with principals to raise private funds from the local community that shore up our intentionally under-staffed budgets. Principals then work with PPS to hire needed staff.

In a perfect world, all our schools would be fully funded and there would be no need to raise additional funds. This is not the case in PPS. 

The reality is the more affluent schools receive fewer public dollars per student, as it should be. In some cases, schools receive half the funds and teachers as other schools.

Schools must be able to fundraise to meet basic learning needs for their students. This allows PPS to allocate more public money to schools with higher underserved populations.

While it's easy to throw around the term "buying" teachers, Local School Foundations are actually trying to provide enough staffing support to ensure their schools are operating at the same baseline as everyone else.

Foundations work to ensure their students have the same resource baseline and contribute 30% of funds raised to the Fund for PPS, which helps other students in need in our district.

Wrong. Until all our schools are properly funded, this will hurt ALL of our students because eliminating Local School Foundations disproportionately impacts our highest need schools & communities

  • Schools in PPS with Local School Foundations typically have some of the highest enrollments and class sizes in the district. The ability for these Foundations to fund positions outside of the PPS budget by raising private dollars allows PPS to direct public funding to other schools.
  • If Local School Foundations are eliminated, PPS will be forced, by its own rules and teachers contract, to fund positions with public dollars at these Foundation schools with high enrollments and class sizes. These positions and these funds will need to be reallocated from the higher need schools, cutting their existing public resources.

That won’t work, and here’s why: 

  • Local School Foundation donors support our top-down system of funding high-needs schools with more public funds and teachers and want to be able to bridge the gap this structure creates at their own student's school. 
  • Fundraising is expensive and takes time. Growing the Fund for PPS to a multi-million-dollar organization will take years and around 20% of money raised. Money that would not go directly to schools as it does now. 
  • Grassroots fundraising works. All large nonprofits have local chapters. Eliminating Local School Foundations cuts critical ties with engaged donors and the volunteer labor foundation organizers provide.
  • Removing the option for donors to directly impact their schools will result in families leaving the district for private schools.

Raise all boats. Our focus must be on how we bring in additional funding from the community for EVERY PPS school. Running a Local School Foundation and fundraising for a school is time consuming, and not every school community has individuals who can donate that kind of time or experience to successfully fundraise. 

This is where the Fund for PPS should play a major role: build a team to fundraise for major projects and staffing at schools without Local School Foundations and help schools start a Local School Foundation with fundraising support, event logistics, and other resources.

Individual school foundations should continue to raise as much as possible because the more they raise the more money is sent to the Fund for PPS to distribute. 

What You Can Do

1) Contact the PPS School Board: Email them and ask them to consider our five requests: 

2) Send a public comment to the Board:

3) Contact the PPS Leadership: Email them and ask them to consider the five things listed above.

4) Sign the Petition:

5) Send this website to parents at your school. Ask them to take action.  

6) Alert your school's leaders and PTA