Do federal and state governments subsidize inequality in schools by offering tax breaks for school donations, which benefit wealthier communities?
In a back-to-school opinion column published in Thursday’s New York Times, a political science professor at Stanford University argues that parental donations to local education foundations and PTAs ought to be aggregated and shared with schools boasting fewer wealthy parents.
Rob Reich writes that “by lowering the taxes of the donor and diminishing the tax revenues that would otherwise have been collected and partly distributed to rich and poor schools alike, federal and state governments are in effect subsidizing the charitable activity of parents who donate to their child’s school.”
Like the Peninsula families profiled in Reich’s column, parents and guardians in Piedmont are used to being asked for annual donations that easily run to the quadruple digits.
The Giving Campaign for Piedmont Schools, run by the Associated Parent Clubs of Piedmont (APCP) in collaboration with the Piedmont Educational Foundation (PEF), suggests that families consider giving $1,000 per child each year, plus $100 or more to the PEF Endowment Fund, if financially possible.
For the 2011-2012 school year, The Giving Campaign raised over $1.6 million, representing more than 5 percent of the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) operating budget.
Families that don't currently have children in Piedmont public schools are also asked to contribute, especially to the PEF's Endowment and Foundation Funds.
By 2011, donors had contributed or pledged about $3.85 million to the Endowment Fund, valued in June of 2011 at $4.2 million. Disbursements to the Piedmont public schools and students that year topped $209,000.
Combined with Piedmont's school parcel tax and other revenue sources beyond the basic state funding, private donations enable PUSD to spend roughly $3,000 more per pupil each year than the statewide average.
Perhaps most controversially, Reich argues that Congress should stop granting charitable status to educational foundations: “If private giving to public schools exacerbates inequalities, then at the very least we should stop subsidizing such behavior with tax dollars.”
Would you be less inclined to donate to educational foundations if it was not deductible?'Like' Piedmont Patch on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter @PiedmontPatch