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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is PiE?

Palo Alto Partners in Education (PiE) is a non-profit organization devoted exclusively to raising funds for all PAUSD schools. PiE helps provide important programs and additional caring staff so that our students can thrive, receive the best education possible and be well prepared for the 21st century. Funds raised by PiE help all ~12,500 pre-K through 12th grade PAUSD students in 18 schools.

It is funding from PiE that truly makes the difference between merely a solid education and an excellent one. PiE was created more than ten years ago to help address the gap between what Palo Alto families wanted for their children and what state and local funding provided. Because of generous donations to PiE from parents in our community like you, we have music, art, and a range of electives to spark student passions. Through PiE, we can fund 250 additional caring adults who provide support throughout PAUSD schools.

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Why do Palo Alto schools need PiE?

A well-rounded education that includes extras such as music, art, computer science, etc., is paramount. These programs, which used to be funded by property taxes, are simply not a part of the PAUSD funding equation today. This is the case for Palo Alto and for many districts throughout in California. Hundreds of school districts throughout the state have education foundations, like PiE, to supplement the extras we want for our students.

While PAUSD is well-regarded among California school districts, the fact remains that California is ranked 45th in the nation for per-student funding. Much of today’s shortfall began in the 1970s when Proposition 13 was passed. Prop 13 limited property tax rates and tax increases and set assessed values at 1975 levels, unless a property has been sold or expanded through a remodel. Prop 13 effectively cut funding for public schools in California in half.

Compared to high performing districts elsewhere in the U.S., (Scarsdale, Rye, New Trier, and Princeton) per-student funding in PAUSD is woefully inadequate—nearly $10,000 less per child per year—than many of these other top districts.

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How much should I give?

We encourage people to give an amount that is meaningful to you and your family. We suggest a donation amount of $1,000 per child. If that doesn’t feel like the right amount, please consider giving something that is comfortable.

We absolutely welcome and encourage gifts of any and all levels so that everyone can participate in the campaign and have a stake in the education of all of our students. Every single gift makes an impact for the students and it truly is a whole community effort to support our schools through PiE. Please join us.

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When the school board voted for teacher and administrator raises in May 2016, it looked to me like PAUSD has sufficient funds. Why should I give to PiE?

Funds from property taxes have been allocated already and do not impact the items funded by PiE.

PiE will always put students first and we will continue work to fund supportive staff at schools and in the classroom to help all students learn and grow. We will continue to fund important programs that improve student wellness, and make additional electives possible—electives which often help students find their passion. PiE is an independent, non-profit education foundation with no influence over the school board and district funding decisions.

PiE works at the school level, by giving individual principals a large portion of their discretionary funding and the flexibility to spend it on additional staff and programs needed for their specific school site—at your child’s school. We can only do that for our students with continued support from the community.

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I’m dissatisfied with my individual teacher, principal, or district staff. Why should I give to PiE?

Withholding a donation to PiE only increases the risk that the individual schools will not be able to fund the vital programs supported by PiE. The impact of reduced PiE funding will be felt by students most of all. If you are upset with an aspect of your child’s education, please communicate your concerns to your teacher, principal, and/or superintendent. They all want to ensure your child has access to the best education possible, and is enjoying their school experience.

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Funding Distribution Questions

How are PiE funds used?

Donations to PiE make up 60-77% of the discretionary funds that each principal has to use for his or her own school. These funds pay for many critical staff that local and state funding does not support.

In numbers people, PiE funds represent:

• 2/3 of discretionary funding in our schools
• 250+ additional supportive staff (aides, teachers, specialists, counselors, etc.)
• Elementary:
o 90% of science enrichment,
o 16 math and reading specialists,
o 1,500+ hours of school climate support,
o 100% of Spectra Art instruction
• Middle School:
o 1,200 hours of additional counseling,
o 16 electives including band, orchestra, choir, drama, video production, broadcast journalism, industrial tech, marine biology, architectural drawing, biotechnology, public speaking, and more.
• High School
o 8 electives including biotech, community service, computer science, engineering, graphic design, industrial design, music, video production,
o Extras such as Language Lab, Science Lab, Guidance Counseling, Writing Center, Teacher Advisors, Link Crew,
o 40 additional teacher advisors, mentors, and counselors.

For more information about of how PiE funds are being used at the different school levels, or how your donations benefit specific schools, please see How PiE Helps PAUSD Schools.

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How are donations distributed?

PiE funds are allocated to every school on a per-pupil basis by school level. Principals apply PiE funds towards staffing the programs that matter most for their students and communities in the following focus areas:

• Elementary: classroom aides, counseling and social emotional programs, arts, music and science enrichment.
• Middle: counselors and transition programs, sciences, arts and music electives and supplemental classroom support
• High School: student guidance and support, additional sciences, arts and music electives, and college and career counseling.

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Why doesn’t PiE allow me to give just to my individual schools?

A PAUSD School Board Policy decision in 2002 mandates that only a central fundraising organization can pay for supplemental staffing and that it must be funded at the same per-student amount by level at PAUSD schools. (Please see PAUSD K-12 Staffing Policy for further details.) This “equal funding for all schools” principle is a cornerstone value of PiE, of PAUSD, and of the community in which we operate. PiE cannot change this approach.

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My child will be in a different school level next year. Why should I give this year?

PiE strengthens the whole K-12 experience. The enrichment and support provided to your child this year was made possible by the generous donations made last year. By donating now, you are ensuring the same opportunity is available for all children next year.

Donors may specify that their gifts be directed to the elementary, middle, or high school funds, and those funds are strictly dedicated to those school levels.

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Donation Questions

Is my donation tax deductible?

Yes, to the full extent allowed by law. Palo Alto Partners in Education is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization. PiE’s Tax ID # is 77-0186364.

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What about company matching programs?

Many employers offer matching donation programs to encourage employees to contribute to charitable organizations. Some will match your contribution dollar for dollar, while others may double or even triple the amount of your donation. The employee must request the match; it’s not something PiE can do for you. Generally, employees can initiate the matching contribution by completing a form on their company’s internal website or through their HR department. To search for your company, please see the matching section of the How to Give page. Palo Alto Partners in Education’s EIN (Tax ID #) is 77-0186364.

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Why should I give money to both PiE and my school’s PTA?

PiE and PTA are both crucial parts of the “funding puzzle” that the district must assemble every year to keep our schools strong. PiE is the only fundraising organization permitted by the Palo Alto Board of Education to pay for salaries during the school day. PiE is committed to an equitable distribution of funds across PAUSD schools on a per-pupil basis per school level, so that all students benefit.

The PTA supports materials, programs and events at individual school sites. PTA funds such things as classroom enrichment and supplies, school site improvements, playground equipment, student scholarships for field trips, and site-specific programs such as assemblies and parent-run community-building activities.

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Now that my child is in high school—with boosters for sports, band, and robotics as well as field trips—I’m feeling a bit tapped out.

We can relate. PiE volunteers are all parents as well and face the same issues. This is one of the most expensive areas in which to live, work and raise kids. The cost of providing an excellent, well-rounded education for our kids has gone up everywhere. We understand that families give in many ways and to many causes. Every gift to PiE makes an impact for all of our students by ensuring additional staff is on campus to help our kids during every school day. We welcome and encourage gifts of any and all levels. We’d love to have as much of the whole community as possible supporting all of our students.

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Questions about Taxes and California School Funding 101

Public schools are supposed to be free. Why are we asked to donate?

A public education may be free, but an excellent education is not. Parents, schools, community donors, and PiE must work together to strengthen our schools.

In the U.S., public schools rely primarily on state and local funding. While California used to have the best performing schools in the country, it is now ranked 45th in the U.S. in terms of school funding. Prop 13, which was passed in 1978 to cap the rate and slow the growth of property taxes, effectively cut funding for public schools in California in half.

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What about the Parcel Tax that was renewed via Measure A?

The Parcel Tax that was renewed through Measure A in May 2015 maintains some of the core funding lost in recent years, however it primarily goes toward salaries, building maintenance, and administration. The Parcel Tax provides $15 million annually, but it does not provide for the extras—support and enrichment—that we all expect from a 21st century education for our children.

An important distinction is that the Parcel Tax is designated for particular uses as decided by the District and Board of Education. PiE funding gives individual principals discretionary funding and the flexibility to spend on additional staff and programs needed for their specific school site.

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I pay so much in property taxes. Why do I need to donate?

The well-rounded education we want for our children that includes extras such as music, art, computer science, etc., requires extra funding. These programs, which used to be funded by property taxes, are simply not a part of the district funding equation these days. This is true in Palo Alto and throughout California. Hundreds of school districts in the state have education foundations like PiE to supplement the above mentioned extras we want for our students.

Although we feel the pinch of high property taxes, we are fortunate in that the high value of our houses drives our tax bill up more than the actual tax rate which is comparatively low. Interestingly, our property tax rate is much lower than in high performing districts such as Scarsdale, Rye, New Trier, and Princeton, which have property tax rates more than twice as high. These districts are able to spend nearly $10,000 more per child per year.

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California School Funding 101

Aren’t Palo Alto schools funded by the State?

PAUSD is what is called a Basic Aid district. Because it is perceived to have enough local tax revenue to meet the minimum school funding threshold set by the state, it receives relatively little state funding (about 9%). Basic Aid status gives PAUSD more local control over funding decisions, but it also means a greater dependence on tax revenue. Revenue can increase when houses are sold and higher property taxes are collected. If student enrollment grows faster, the same revenue must cover more children and the spending per student decreases.

In order to support the school district’s high standards of excellence, Palo Alto schools rely greatly on the generosity of local donors and parcel taxes to supplement property taxes, and state and federal funding.

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What is the PAUSD budget and its sources of revenue?

The primary source of funding for PAUSD is local revenue — mainly, property taxes and the Parcel Tax.
• 12,500 students in one Unified school district: 1 Pre-K and Transitional Kindergarten, 12 Elementary Schools, 3 Middle Schools, 2 High Schools
• Annual budget is $229 Million — about 85% of budget is tied to compensation.
• PAUSD revenue sources: local property taxes (71.7%), State (9%), Parcel Tax (6.4%), lease revenue (4.1%), other local revenue (2.1%), PiE (2.5%), Federal Revenue (0.5%).

While PiE dollars make up only 2.5% of the total revenue for PAUSD, they are 68% of the discretionary funding each school has.

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Do other local schools raise money for their schools too?

Yes. A well-rounded education includes many extras that are important for our kids today. Programs which used to be covered by property taxes, are simply not part of the district funding equation these days. This is true for Palo Alto and pretty much every district in California.

PiE’s suggested donation of $1,000 per child is actually lower than the amount asked by many surrounding communities. By comparison, Portola Valley suggests $2,000 per child, Menlo Park $1,500 per child, Los Altos is $1,200 per child and so on.

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Organizational Questions

Who runs PiE?

PiE is a non-profit educational foundation run by a Board of Directors of dedicated parent volunteers with professional expertise in a variety of areas, including fundraising, finance, development, business, law, and marketing. Strong supporters of Palo Alto’s public schools, PiE Board members understand that a public education is free, but a great education is not. PiE employs a full-time Executive Director as well as two part-time staff members. They can be reached in the PiE office at 650-329-3990 or by sending email to

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What were the results of the 2015-2016 PiE campaign?

PiE had a very successful campaign in 2015-2016. Our goal was $5.5 million and we met the goal! We presented the schools with a $5.5 million grant and nearly $100,000 in additional teacher grants.

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What is PiE’s goal for 2016-17?

Each spring, PiE works to determine the District’s overall level of need through discussions with Principals and other district administrators. The 2016-2017 goal is $5.6 million and assumes that current programs funded by PiE will require modest increases for the next year due to staff raises and population growth.

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Does PiE provide support for special needs students or any other subgroup of students?

It is important to remember that PiE was established and is required to benefit all students.

PiE (or, technically, PiE’s predecessor organization All Schools Fund) was first created in 2002 after the PAUSD School Board made a ruling that only a centralized fundraising organization can provide funding for staffing. The funds raised by the central fundraising organization must be distributed on a per-student equal basis by level. Because of this cornerstone founding principle, dictated by the district, PiE is not allowed to raise funds specifically for any subgroup or direct funds to student subgroups from our main campaign – not those with IEPs or those who are Tinsley scholars nor gifted students nor those who are learning English, for example.

At the elementary level, all students have access to art (including some Spectra Art classes taught within the specialized classrooms), music, science and, when in the general education classroom settings, general classroom aides. At the middle and high schools, all students, including those with IEPs, are assigned to guidance counselors (nearly a third of whom are now funded by PiE gifts across the district). These students also participate in elective classes, many of which are funded by PiE.

The one area where PiE has, by tradition, been able to make grants that benefit specific subgroups of students is PiE’s small teacher grants program. Since its inception within the PiE predecessor organization, PAFE, 30 years ago, the teacher grants program has actually given out over $1 million for innovative pilot projects.

PiE wishes to do more to support ALL our students, but we are limited by funds available. So, if you find any of the program benefits mentioned above useful to your child(ren), please consider giving what is meaningful to your family.

Get in Touch with PiE

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