Back to School Challenge Grant ends

Christina Chen, Author

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Partners in Education is celebrating its success in earning $300,000 worth of matching grant money in the Back-to-School Challenge Grant for Palo Alto Unified School District’s 2013-2014 budget.

This year’s goal is $4.75 million, an eight percent increase from last year’s $4.4 million in donations, according to the PiE website.

“We definitely see an increasing need [for donations],” said Sarah Sands, PiE’s vice president of development of schools. “And the state budget cuts make it a greater need. I think our students and the parents of our students want even better and better education for their children.”

In the current school year, PiE will give $488,000 to Palo Alto High School to fund college and career counseling, the teacher adviser program, freshman Link Crew and an extra guidance counselor, according to the PiE website. In addition, PiE will support curriculum enhancements in technical electives and Biotechnology, as well as sponsor the new Sports Nutrition elective.

“We are paying for things that at this point the district office wouldn’t pay for,” Sands said. “This is stuff that there is just not money for otherwise. The money does not exist.”

The recent fundraiser, which ended Sept. 7, was part of PiE’s effort to reach out to families as the school year starts.

“We communicate with all the parents and ask them to, if possible, donate to PiE, $800 per child,” Sands said. “We recognize that that’s a lot of money, so we ask parents to do what they can. We also recognize that some people can give more than $800. And we ask those people to, if possible, give more than $800.”

In this year’s Back-to-School Challenge Grant, some key Palo Alto families lived up to their pledge to give up to a total of $300,000 to match any amount raised through donations.

“They [the donors] are people who move to Palo Alto with a very high expectation of what their children’s education would be like,” Sands said. “And they come to realize that the dollars the district has can’t cover every single thing they want for their children’s education. They realize that even though it’s a public school, it’s not free.”

According to Sands, there will be another opportunity for families to give on Donation Days, Nov. 15 and 16, and some Palo Alto families will again pledge to match those donations. The campaign for next year’s funds will run until January.

“We still have a long way to go to be able to give $4.75 million to the district for the 2013-14 school year,” Sands said. “We look forward to the ongoing generous support of parents and community members in the PAUSD schools area.”

PiE also welcomes donations at any time of the year.

“We are always open to accepting people’s generous donations,” Sands said. “There will just be different times where we will communicate more clearly. A lot of people intend to give; they just need a reminder.”

PiE is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that raises funds to serve PAUSD. While some of its function overlap with the Parent-Teacher Association, PiE is the only group that can pay for staff and teachers. The PTA pays for materials such as classroom supplies, campus beautification and student scholarships for field trips.

Before the establishment of PiE, individual schools raised their own funds, which created an imbalance in the quality of education among schools in the district. Thus, in 2005, PAUSD decided to create PiE, which gives money to schools based on their student population, so that funding would be proportionally allocated for each student. This fundraiser marks its eighth year of serving the Palo Alto community.