A Call to Action! In 1983, as the implications of Proposition 13 property tax restructuring were beginning to be felt in public school classrooms throughout California, a group of Berkeley parents and community leaders responded by establishing Berkeley Public Schools Fund. Their frustration with visibly diminishing resources was channeled into activism on behalf of our city’s public school teachers and students, who were bearing the brunt of the dramatic change in public education financing. This core leadership group began building an annual source of funding that educators could tap to enrich their classrooms and expand the horizons of their teaching.
Not long after the Schools Fund’s formation, California found itself with a budget surplus in 1987 that was redistributed through tax refunds to every individual in the state–hard to imagine these days. Seizing on the opportunity, founding executive director Mary Friedman organized an appeal for the public to donate their refund for the greater good of Berkeley students. Her astute timing of the appeal resulted in Berkeley holding the record for such efforts in the state, with $125,000 raised and distributed to the schools. Begun in a volunteer’s living room filled with notebooks and fileboxes, the Schools Fund has grown to become Berkeley’s single largest source of outside funding to reach teachers and programs in every Berkeley public school, from PreK through K-12. And we are about more than money. A volunteer program that today brings the donated time, talents and skills of over 1,500 community members into all our schools, was initiated in 1991 and is a thriving part of the Schools Fund’s services. By the 25th anniversary of the Schools Fund in 2008, classroom grants plus special earmarked funds and campaigns had provided our public schools with over $8 million in financial support and hundreds of thousands of hours — worth many more millions of dollars — of volunteer involvement. From the beginning and continuing to this day, 100% of the Schools Fund’s cash resources come from contributed income. Our current annual budget of roughly $700,000 must be raised each year from within and beyond the Berkeley community. From the New to the Tried and True the Schools Fund has always been about enrichment, innovation and leadership. While budget crises come and go, there remains an enduring need to go beyond what public resources can provide in even the best of times. We want the best for Berkeley public schools, and believe you do too!
- For over twenty five years, teachers have turned to the Schools Fund to buy and pilot new curriculum, new technology, new assessment tools, new literature and non-fiction, or new science and math equipment. From SMART Boards to portable white-boards, we respond to ideas that demonstrate thought, initiative and collaboration–all focused on helping students succeed.
- A world class university right in our backyard offers tremendous opportunities for collaboration. We work very closely with UC’s Cal Corps as well as the Graduate School of Education to infuse our schools with volunteers and expertise.
- New ideas are brought into our schools by others. A fledgling school sports organization received an early the Schools Fund grant to try its ideas out on Berkeley playgrounds, and it now operates in several of our schools and nationwide. the Schools Fund funded swimming classes at the Y for Washington school, and now they are a routine part of their phys-ed program.
- We love music in Berkeley, and we proudly support Berkeley Symphony Orchestra’s Music in the Schools program of performance and instruction at all our K-5 schools. We also fund music study scholarships, choral programs, and a wide range of music learning and performance activities in the classrooms.
- Columbia Teachers College Lucy Caulkins writing curriculum caught the attention of some elementary teachers, and with the Schools Fund’s help it was first piloted and is now an adopted component of Language Arts across all our K-5 schools.
- During the rebuilding of Rosa Parks School, the Schools Fund was asked and accepted the challenge to raise an extra $1 million to build a Family Resource Center, science lab, extra classrooms and a beautiful field and play area, all now enjoyed by the school and larger community.
- When music was about to disappear in our schools for a year due to a temporary funding gap, the Schools Fund spearheaded a campaign raising over $300,000 to keep music teachers and instruction going uninterrupted.