In commemoration of its 35th anniversary, the Berkeley Public Schools Fund has announced that it is forming a Legacy Fund to help safeguard Berkeley schools from the ups and downs of education funding and to invest in teachers and student learning well into the future.
The Schools Fund’s mission is “to inspire and empower an extraordinary public education for every child.” It does that primarily through grant programs that give teachers the opportunity to address specific classroom and student needs, to provide out of classroom and hands-on learning experiences and also to develop their skills as teachers.
The Legacy Fund will help ensure that grant funding will at least be maintained if not increased year to year and available even when their are dips in annual fundraising. A successful Legacy Fund campaign will allow the Schools Fund to increase teacher grants and participate in larger, multi-year districtwide impact grants. In recent years the Schools Fund has made multi-year grant commitments for elementary school literacy, middle school science, and the Berkeley High Redesign, including $30,000 for a new 9th grade physics lab.
A well-established Legacy Fund will enable the Schools Fund to make commitments to initiatives for which there are no District funding streams but are necessary as evidenced by student performance and affirmed by teachers and the administration. Looking forward, an example of such an initiative would be to help support a robust and comprehensive K-12 instructional model for math. In the best case, the Legacy Fund would help realize this type of an ambitious project over multiple years.
“I’ve committed 35 years to help support public education in Berkeley and I want to make sure that our students and teachers have that support for another 35 years,” stated Mary Friedman, one of the founding members of the Berkeley Public Schools Fund and, with her husband Stan, founding members of the Legacy Fund.
“This was a no-brainer decision,” commnented Chuck Miller, another Legacy Fund founder. “I see the effects these teacher grants have on our classrooms and I want to make sure the teachers in Berkeley will always have these grants to make their classrooms more dynamic and engaging.”
The Berkeley Public Schools Fund (then Berkeley Public Education Foundation) was established in 1983, when Proposition 13 tax restructuring severely decreased funding for public schools. A group of Berkeley parents and community leaders, frustrated by the diminishing resources for public school classrooms, created the Berkeley Public Education Foundation. The Schools Fund began with funding Classroom Grants in 1984, and less than ten years later created Berkeley School Volunteers. Over the years grant options for teachers expanded with Summer Teacher Fellowships, Strategic Impact Grants and a crowdfunding site for teachers, Friends and Family Grants.
The Schools Fund has several longterm relationships with local educational and cultural organizations through its annual support for in-school programs like the Berkeley Symphony’s Music in the Schools for K-6th grade, the Berkeley Rep’s Story Builders for 3rd grade and the Writers Coach Connection in the middle schools. Making sure that every Berkeley public school student benefits from Berkeley’s rich cultural and intellectual resources is one of many goals the Schools Fund reaches for year after year.
“I believe that if Berkeley holds a big space in your heart, as it does for me and so many of our supporters, leaving a legacy to the Schools Fund is a powerful gift to your community and its children,” said Erin Rhoades, the Schools Fund’s Executive Director.