Jennifer Hall Lee lives in Pasadena, California. Her child is now enrolled in the high school, but Lee continues to volunteer and raise money for the middle school, where she is needed. In a note to me, she said that 45% of the students in Pasadena are attending private schools, charter schools, or home schooled. The public schools are suffering because of this splintering of civic energy.

She explained why she cares about the middle school:

The annual fund committee raises money throughout the year to help Eliot pay for teacher salaries, supplies, programs, technology and more–all of which keeps Eliot an arts magnet school. Annual funds, once the staple of private schools, are now necessary for many public schools. Pasadena Unified doesn’t receive money from a parcel tax and California ranks very low in per-pupil spending. Let me explain that by referring to the words of Pasadena School Board Member Pat Cahalan as he explains the funding disparity well: “Wisconsin funds public education at about $2,000 more per student. If California funded PUSD at that rate, the district would have over $30 million more every year.”

Eliot is a Title 1 school, which means that our student body is over 50% socio-economically disadvantaged. Moreover, we have to deal with reality: low statewide spending on students, no parcel tax, and misperceptions about PUSD. When the annual fund committee meets to discuss fundraising ideas, we have to deal with those three realities. They are in the room with us, underscoring our ideas as we decide which events to hold and what monies we can reasonably expect to raise. It’s difficult, but also joyful.

During the first year of the Eliot annual fund, we reached the goal of $50k; believe me, it was a huge lift. It took 12 months, but we succeeded, and I have to say this: we couldn’t have done it without everyone, including community members who had no children in Eliot but who participated, reached out to us, donated, and encouraged us. We are so grateful.

In today’s political climate we need everyone’s generosity and interest in our school to help us succeed. Children need to know that everyone in their community cares about them.