Q. Why is an education foundation necessary?

We can no longer rely on the state: It’s up to us – the parents and community – to make sure our children get the education they need in order to succeed in the future.

As it stands our schools are community funded. The old-fashioned “State pays for everything” public school has disappeared in an era of budget cuts and crisis. With these cuts, course offerings and services we took for granted as children – such as art, shop, foreign languages, music, drama, student counseling, reasonably up-to-date textbooks and technology, and even P.E. – are rapidly disappearing throughout California, leaving schools with just enough to barely teach the basics.

This means that parents, family members, businesses, and other community members need to make up the difference to help fund the education our children receive at John Swett schools. Because of the crisis in public education funding, approximately half of California school districts have created foundations to provide additional funding for their schools.

Q. But I already pay property taxes. Isn’t that enough?

No. Although we write large checks to Contra Costa County every year for our property taxes, less than 20% goes to California schools. In the 1970s, California voters passed Proposition 13, which shifted control of property taxes from school districts to the state. This event transformed school finance from a locally funded system to one in which the state allocates the bulk of school revenues. Now that our state is essentially bankrupt our public schools are suffering from chronic underfunding.

California pays the fourth least per pupil for education of any state in our country, ranking 47th out of 50 in school spending per student. At just $8,667 per year in 2012, this figure is an average of $3,000 less than other states. Adjusted for inflation, California’s budget for education is at its lowest in over 40 years. With spending so low, it’s no wonder that students’ educations and test scores are suffering.

Q. How does JSEF raise money?

The Foundation raises money from you – parents, local businesses, and members of the community. Your help is welcome at any time: Just click on “Donate Now” in the “How to Help” menu above to get started contributing. Many of our funds from parents are also raised through our Annual Giving campaign. Please join us in pledging your donation this Fall. Additionally, we plan a number of special events every year, including the annual Get Lucky Prom, to raise money for our schools and help build our community.

Q. This sounds important, but times are tough. Why should I help?

We strongly believe that every member of our community has an important stake in our schools. For parents that stake is the most obvious – the success of their children in life. Your donation is an investment in your child. Your contribution helps close the gap between the bare bones education that is funded by the state and a quality educational experience that we want for our kids. Strengthening your own local schools and school district is also a more cost-efficient and civic-minded alternative to private schools.

But everyone in an area is affected both directly and indirectly by the success or failure of our public schools. Notably, multiple research studies have found a causal relationship between the quality of local schools as measured by their test scores and local property values. When the schools are good, property values are high, and when they aren’t, valuations suffer. The value of a nearly identical house in a similar neighborhood two streets apart can vary by as much as 40% depending on what school district it’s in – that’s how important good schools are to parents when they’re shopping for a house.

Local businesses are also highly dependent on a well paid workforce to patronize their establishments, because the undereducated and unemployed aren’t very good consumers. A quality education is what enables children to get the sort of jobs that will enable them to be good customers to your business for years to come.

Good schools create a “virtuous cycle” in a community, in which children who received a good education get better jobs and become employed and contributing citizens. Businesses are successful, crime is low, the streets and parks are safe, and housing is well-kept, occupied, and fairly valued. People want to stay in town because it’s such a nice place to live and visitors want to move here to raise their own children. Your ongoing support of the schools is a big part of what makes that possible.

Q. How does JSEF spend the funds they raise?

Our Board of Directors continually discusses current school district needs with the superintendent, teachers, parents, and concerned citizens. JSEF relies on our school district and our teachers as the experts in education for guidance. We depend on their combined knowledge of curriculum requirements and their understanding of the goals of JSUSD students and parents. Those needs are then compared to our core interests and areas of funding, such as Technology in the Classroom, to determine whether each contribution is appropriate and in line with our mission. We also carefully consider requests for funding to make the best possible use of our annual budget and work with other local organizations wherever possible to maximize our impact. To see some examples of what we fund every year, choose “Accomplishments” in the menu bar.

Q. I’ve already joined the PTA. How is this different?

PTA’s are invaluable organizations that support school activities in specific schools. JSEF finances all the schools on various needs, with an emphasis solely on education. JSEF has and continues to support and partner with the PTAs at each school on joint projects.

Q. How much should I give?

For parents, we recommend $1 a day for your child’s education; $360 a year for one child, or $540 per family. For community members and local businesses, please refer to the supporter categories on the Donate Now page. Any amount is appreciated and these funds go to those things the schools need the most or would do without were it not for these funds.

Q. That’s a large amount. I can’t afford that right now. What can I do?

We offer the option of making 12 monthly payments for our annual giving campaign. When you click on the Annual Giving Button and it will walk you through the steps; once set up, the funds will be automatically debited on a monthly basis from whatever payment method you chose. Or you could send in a check monthly to JSEF, P.O. Box 455, Crockett, CA 94525.

Q. How do I know my donation will go to my school?

We support all four of our schools and publish our funding on the website.

Q. Are my donations tax deductible?

Yes, we are a 501(c)(3) non profit and our tax ID number is: 56-2615775. We are happy to send out a hard copy receipt upon request.

    Posted on 8/6/12 by Karl Rimbach