Background and Agreed Upon Facts:

Every school in Portland is underfunded, along with every school in the state. The Oregon Quality Education Commission report anticipates a $833 million dollar funding gap between fully implemented quality education funding and current levels for the 21-23 biennium.

Education in Oregon is grossly underfunded due to regressive ballot measures (e.g., 1990’s Measure 5), pushed by anti-government forces that radically changed how we fund local and state government. The passage of this measure resulted in drastic funding cuts for our public services in Oregon, especially schools.

Local School Foundations in Portland were created in 1994 in response to the cuts in school funding created by the regressive ballot measures. These Local School Foundations have for years helped make up the funding gap at both their local school and helped all PPS schools through a required one-third (33%) equity share. From Local School Foundations — The Fund for Portland Public Schools:

“The PPS community has received positive national press coverage for initiating ways that parent-led fundraising can transcend individual school communities and make a broader, more equitable impact. In the current model, two thirds of dollars above $10,000 raised at a school may be allocated toward staffing at the school that raised the funds, while one third of the funds raised are pooled with those from all the LSFs to become the PPS Parent Fund. These dollars are in turn awarded to schools based on a data-driven formula which measures relative need.”

PPS schools are not funded equally and per a pupil spending varies widely from school to school. This is an intentional policy from the Racial Equity and Social Justice Lens (RESJ) that implemented the differentiated staffing ratio and equity formula for budgeting for school staffing in the 2018-2019 school year. Schools with higher percentages of historically underserved and higher needs students in their communities receive significantly more funds per pupil than those from more affluent communities with lower percentages of such students. PPS nobly uses an equity lens funding model in its budgetary decisions that directs more funds to such higher need schools. However, this lens, taken in combination with federal funds (Title 1 and other programs) results in some schools receiving approximately twice (2x) as much per student on average as other schools. One elementary school has received an average of $6,926 per student over 2020-2023, while another elementary school has received $14,797 per student over the same period. See the following PPS documents for source information and greater details:

Funds from LSFs and their equity contributions to the Fund for PPS provide important financial support for supplementary staffing across all PPS schools. Over 2017-2022, LSFs raised an average of $3.3 million/year, whereby a third of those revenues raised went to the Parent Fund. For 2021-22, 31 LSFs raised enough funds so that the Parent Fund was able to grant awards of at least $10,000 to 48 of the district’s 83 schools for 2022-23. Additionally, the Parent Fund was able to make 2 additional grants of $10,000 to other programs, and 6 additional grants of $5,000 to the 6 Pathways to Graduation. Overall, for the 2022-23 school year, 31.89 FTE were funded by LSFs and 9.57 FTE were funded by schools who received Parent Fund grants. See following documents from the PPS Board Public Meeting Agenda: November 14, 2022 at 4:00 PM - Work Session:

PPS eliminated nearly 90 full-time educator positions for the 22/23 school year due to declining enrollment, and the district has made it clear they are looking at even more drastic budget cuts in the coming years. For the 22/23 school year, those cuts were not evenly distributed and disproportionately fell on schools located in more “affluent” communities. Indeed, some elementary schools lost as many as 5 educators while others gained positions. Many of these schools are running on a skeleton crew of staff and morale is down. More and more parents with the means to do so are considering sending their children to private schools to ensure a good educational environment and experience for their kids, resulting in a vicious cycle of lower enrollment, lower public funding, and struggling schools.

Funding and Staff Allocation Data from PPS

RESJ Lens Slides are from pp. 22-23 of File_  11_14 Work Session PPS LSF Presentation REVISED from Public Meeting Agenda: November 14, 2022 at 4:00 PM - Work Session - BoardBook Premier

Heatmaps are from Pages 10-11 of 2022-23 Proposed Budget - Volume 2.pdf (

Let’s Implement a Holistic Solution That Preserves Current Funding Mechanisms and Grows The Fund for PPS

The Proposal - Redirect Equity Share

One of the primary criticisms of the current system is that the amount of funds distributed from Parent Fund Grants to higher-need schools is too small to make an impact and there are many schools that are financially in the middle, receiving nothing. 

We agree. There is a better way to use the hard-earned contributions from independent and local school foundations.

In 2021-2022, the total amount collected from school foundations was $1,255,000. Let’s look at how we could use that money differently.

We are proposing that the 33% equity share would fund the following:

Invest In and Grow the Fund for PPS

  1. Establish and maintain a “Teacher and Staff Hiring” campaign that would raise meaningful funding for every school without an active foundation to hire teachers and staff in line with their school plan. 
    • The President of the Fund for PPS will work to update their 5 year plan to incorporate this campaign and create a plan for adding staff and any other supports needed. 
    • The Fund’s staff and board will work with PPS to develop annual fundraising targets based on current school needs and fundraising trends. This goal will be well communicated with the community.
  2. Support a large district-wide yearly fundraising event.
  3. Strengthen existing LSF structures to generate district-wide support.

We cannot eliminate school foundations and cross our fingers that funding will spontaneously appear. The Fund for PPS does not have the budget or staff to fundraise $1.25M annually. Our proposal provides real support to ensure the Fund for PPS is successful in establishing a Teacher and Staff Hiring campaign, while maintaining focus on their existing goals - Inspired Sustainable Schoolyards, Arts Education and Enrichment and Crisis Relief. 

We agree that a district-wide foundation, if implemented correctly, will provide millions of additional dollars for the district schools that currently receive little to nothing from Parent Fund Grants. At the same time, this model preserves the important connections between communities and their neighborhood schools that are built through school foundations.  Strong school foundations will be used to build a central structure that raises even more funds overall, harnessing these connections and growing new ones as well. 

Adopt an Equity Lens in Operations

PPS will direct school foundations to adopt best-equity practices for their fundraising efforts. Examples include the following: 

  • Offer Community Tickets to any event at no cost or "pay what you wish." 
  • Create opportunities to support the school foundation that are not financial. 
  • Eliminate any “pay-to-play” experiences from fundraising events (ie, "Principal for a day" or "Teacher's Helper").
  • Require anything sold at an event that includes student experiences (ie, classroom backyard movie night) to be open to the entire cohort (classroom in this example) regardless of whether a ticket purchase was made.
  • PPS shall direct Principals who use school foundation funds for FTE to clearly demonstrate how these expenditures are helping to create equity within their community, including sharing data on improved student scores and/or morale.

Change Fund Retention Structure  

  • To keep pace with the rate of inflation, change school foundation fund retention to 100% of all funds raised up to $20,000 for 2024 and automatically increase that threshold by $1K every three years. (this increase reflects basic inflation–the current $10,000 level was set nearly 30 years ago). 
  • Limits regarding how much any school can raise or any restriction on what they can spend those funds on will be removed. Placing a limit on how much a school foundation can raise or on the number of FTEs the school can fund is a lose-lose proposition. It discourages schools from raising above an arbitrary limit, translating to fewer equity share dollars to help other school communities. Fundraising creates more opportunity for all students within PPS. 

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