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Report addresses inequities in school fundraising

Income differences often mean that some schools get far more in donations than others, volunteer committee says


Photo Credit: REVIEW FILE PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Fundraising Equity Committee member Chris Barhyte also helped organize fundraising efforts for a fence and path at Lakeridge High to enhance the planned stadium upgrade. The Lakeridge community raised $117,000 for stadium upgrades from 86 personal donations, according to a recent report from the Fundraising Equity Committee.Parents, board members and the superintendent should establish best practices for fundraising and develop criteria for when the Lake Oswego School District should accept gifts, according to a report released last week by the Fundraising Equity Committee.

Those are among the policy changes recommended by the committee, which is seeking to redress fundraising inequities at the district’s 10 schools.

The committee, which met six times between Nov. 20 and Feb. 10 before releasing its report last week, also developed an analysis of median incomes within each of the schools’ boundaries and compiled the three-year giving history at each school.

The 12-member citizen committee, including parents from every school in the district, will present its recommendation to the school board on March 9.

Why change donation policy?

Lake Oswego residents are always generous, especially when it comes to schools, but a large gift to one school can sometimes leave other schools at a disadvantage. It may even require the school district to purchase similar equipment for other schools, or to pay additional dollars to fund a new staff member required to implement a school’s new, donation-funded program.

Another wrinkle: Some local schools get far more in donations than others.

“It’s a complicated issue, and this is not unique to our community,” said Amber Imes, a Fundraising Equity Committee member. “This is the way economics has worked since man began.”

For guidance, the committee sifted through other school districts’ policies and looked at information from the Oregon School Boards Association.

Possible action

The committee, which the school board created last summer, offered a few recommendations and ideas for the board to explore. One of them involves tapping the leadership of the nongovernmental Coordinating Council, a 25-year-old group that connects members of all schools’ parent clubs.

The hope is that the group can work to ensure fundraising dollars are evenly distributed. And with support from the school board and superintendent, it can establish best practices for independent, school-affiliated organizations that raise money, the report says.

The report says the first step toward change is for each school to determine what it needs to improve instruction for students. Principals should submit a list each year, and a master list should be compiled. All donations should be directed to these priorities and should have a clearly defined purpose, the report said.

“Let’s provide a list to all the schools, so we all know what we’re providing money for,” said committee member Chris Barhyte.

That will help all parent clubs understand the needs at each school, in case one has a surplus of something another school needs. This is already done to a certain extent, Barhyte said, but “the concept is to make that into more of a formal process.”

In addition, the report says that schools that don’t routinely raise as much as others should benefit when other schools receive donations, because gifts should lessen the district’s overall expenses.

The district’s fundraising policy should support the efforts of independent organizations that help schools, and the district should not “impinge upon the autonomy of parent clubs,” the report says.

The district also should update its policy on public gifts, determining how large a gift would have to be before requiring approval from the principal, superintendent or school board. A school could accept a large gift in some situations, the report suggests, by requiring that the superintendent come up with a way to even out resources within three years.

Another potential aspect of the policy is to not allow gifts to fund employees. Gifts would not be accepted that have unsuitable conditions or call for a continuing financial commitment from the district’s general fund that is not in proportion to the value of the gift over a period of five years, the report says.

“Equity may not mean having the same things in the same number,” the report says. “Equity may be contextual or relative; it may reflect the most effective application of current resources in particular circumstances, given a school’s values and goals. However, students in all Lake Oswego schools should have equivalent educational opportunities.”

Potential participation

Also at issue is the fact that some schools receive much more than others in terms of donations, often because parents in one school’s neighborhood simply have a higher income than parents in another area.

In the 2014-15 school year, for example, the lowest fundraising income — $28,250 — was at River Grove Elementary School. However, the club has not yet had its large fundraiser, an auction. It raised $47,550 including all fundraisers last school year and $29,800 total in 2012-13. The school’s neighborhood had a median income of $66,028 from 2007-11, according to the report. That’s still well above the median income in Oregon, which is $49,850, but there’s a huge gap between River Grove and many other in schools in Lake Oswego.

Westridge Elementary School had the highest fundraising revenue, more than either high school at $213,221 in 2013-14 (the most recently available data). At $117,213, Westridge’s neighborhood had the highest median family income from 2007-11, the report states.

In the past three years, there were two gifts of more than $5,000 at Westridge, requiring school board approval. River Grove did not have any gifts over $5,000.

In that same time period, Daimler Trucks donated $7,000 apiece to Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools. Besides the Daimler gift and $20,000 from winning the Art of Dairy Contest, Lake Oswego High School also received $100,000 from community member Charley Cobb and $25,000 from an anonymous donor.

The Daimler gift is the only individual donation Lakeridge has had in the past three years that tops $5,000, although the school did raise $117,000 for stadium upgrades from 86 personal donations, the report states.

The report also compiled a list of donations to and participation rates for the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation’s annual campaign to establish “fundraising potential.”

Lake Oswego High School had the biggest gift — $204,795 — and a participation rate of 44.6 percent in 2013-14. Lake Grove had the highest participation rate at 67.2 percent and offered the third-highest donation, $121,301.

All LOSD schools combined were responsible for $997,814 of the foundation’s donations last school year. That’s more than half of the total $1.7 million the organization raised.

The goal, the report says, is to close some of those gaps.

“The district shall budget annually to close any ongoing significant inequities between or within schools as measured by the established standards,” the report states.

HOW TO ATTEND

School board meeting packets, which include the schedule, line-up of topics and reports, usually are posted within a few days of a meeting: www.edline.net/pages/Lake_Oswego_School_District. The next meeting, when the Fundraising Equity Committee will present its report, is March 9.


By Jillian Daley
Reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 109
email: jdaley@lakeoswegoreview.com
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