Celebrating 35 years of public school commitment

From Daily Journal Op-Ed page, January 9, 2018

As the San Carlos Education Foundation celebrates 35 years of service to the San Carlos public schools, we’ve had the privilege of reflecting on more than three decades of people and stories which profoundly illustrate the historic commitment San Carlos has to its schools. Our strong community values and support of public education across generations has ensured that San Carlos public schools remain the core of our city’s economic vitality.

We regularly hear that new residents choose San Carlos “for the schools.” What these new residents often don’t realize is that despite our high property values, Proposition 13 has kept the San Carlos Elementary School District among the lowest in funding levels compared to surrounding districts. But as we look back at 35 years of the San Carlos Education Foundation, we are heartened by the fact that since the legislation was enacted in 1978, San Carlos citizens have always heeded the call to protect public school funding.

Not much has changed with regard to California school funding since SCEF was founded in 1982. Since its inception, Proposition 13 has profoundly affected the collection and distribution of property tax revenue available for public schools and moved control of school funding from local districts to the state. The result has been a state that was once fifth in per pupil spending to 42nd currently, with school districts cutting the basics and leaving communities to “self-fund” to meet basic student needs.

In more recent years, the 2003 and 2008 recessions resulted in further cuts to school funding. But in keeping with our community’s commitment, we continued to answer the call. In 2003, SCEF increased its fundraising from $55,000 to over $300,000 in a single year, saving music, library and mental health programs.

In later years, driven by the 2008 recession, SCEF and PTA leaders came together in a remarkable show of solidarity and committed to a centralized fundraising model which streamlined volunteer efforts and raised an unprecedented $1.78 million, ensuring equity across the district. The partnership transcended politics and established SCEF as the primary fundraising organization for San Carlos public schools.

The San Carlos Education Foundation has evolved to meet the needs of a growing school district population. Through the generosity of individual donors and business partnerships, SCEF realized $2.8 million in financial support in 2017. These dollars allow students access to state-of-the-art curriculum including smaller class sizes, school counselors, the latest classroom technology, music at the elementary level, arts, tech instruction and teacher grants; a vital part of SCEF’s mission since the 1990s.

It is becoming increasing clear that priorities and policies around public education need to change at the state level. In recent years, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature in Sacramento have lauded increases in state funding. What they haven’t readily addressed are the concurrent increases in liabilities passed down to local school districts. So, while the state gives funds with one hand, it simultaneously takes away funds with the other. Writing to your state and local legislators is a great way to make your voice heard on the topic of public education funding. We urge citizens throughout California to demand that local districts not be burdened with these additional costs.

As an advocate for public schools, the San Carlos Education Foundation’s mission has always been to ensure every child, every day, in every classroom has access to a quality education. For 35 years, this mission has not wavered regardless of the political or economic challenges facing our public schools at the state, county or local level. As we enter 2018, we express our gratitude to the citizens on whose shoulders we stand to continue the fight for our public schools. We salute the commitment of the countless volunteers, businesses and community groups that have partnered with us to ensure San Carlos public schools continue thrive over the next 35 years and beyond.

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