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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is PiE?

Palo Alto Partners in Education (PiE) is a non-profit education foundation devoted exclusively to raising funds for all PAUSD schools. Powered by a dedicated team of parent volunteers, PiE helps provide important programs and additional instructional staff so that our students can thrive, receive an enriched education and be well prepared for the 21st century. Funds raised by PiE help all ~11,600 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 fifteen 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, we have music, art, and a range of electives to spark student passions. Through PiE, we can fund more than 250 additional adults who provide support throughout PAUSD schools.

Why do Palo Alto schools need PiE?

A well-rounded education with smaller class sizes and extras such as music, art, engineering, etc., is something we want for our kids. When Proposition 13 slashed education funding in California, these programs fell out of the funding equation. 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 education we want for our students.

While PAUSD is well regarded among California school districts, the fact remains that California is ranked 46th in the nation for per-student funding. Prop 13 limited property tax rates and increases and set assessed values at 1976 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., (Jericho Union Free, Scarsdale, New Trier) per-student funding in PAUSD is woefully inadequate—more than $10,000 less per child per year—than many of these other top districts.

How much should I give?

We encourage people to give an amount that is meaningful to you and your family. Our suggested donation amount is $1,200 per child in the district. If that doesn’t feel like the right amount, please consider giving something that is comfortable. Every dollar makes a difference.

We welcome and encourage gifts of any level 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.

What is PiE’s response to COVID-19?

During the global health crisis caused by COVID-19, PiE remains focused on our mission by continuing to fund the salaries of instructional and support staff in PAUSD. It is not in PiE’s mission to contribute directly to families in need, therefore we have been supporting local organizations that are doing so by sharing information through our website about how to contribute to these efforts, including Palo Alto Community Fund COVID-19 Relief Fund, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley and Sacred Heart Community Service.

Additionally, the PiE Board has voted to allow a one-time carry-over for Principals. Principals will be able to carry-over a maximum of 5% of PiE funding allocated to each of their schools from the 2020-21 school year to the 2021-22 school year. Because the District is facing budget cuts and a budget shortfall due to the school closures, Principals may be taking cost-saving measures in the coming school year. We want to provide them with the flexibility needed during this unusual time while still maintaining our donor’s intentions in spending their donations and keeping the current level of educational enrichment.

If I’m unhappy with my teacher, principal, or the district, why should I give to PiE?

If people choose not to give to PiE, PiE will have less money to give to each Principal for each student. Those Principals will have to make hard choices on what to cut or reduce. They will not get extra funding from the District to cover that gap. Withholding donations to PiE affects the Principals’ budgets directly. It means fewer staff to teach and support our kids at each school site. 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, superintendent and/or school board. They all want to ensure your child has access to the best education possible, and is enjoying their school experience.

Is PiE independently audited?

We undergo an annual independent audit. You can see our Audited Financial Statements and our IRS 990 filings for several years on our PiE Financials webpage. PiE received the highest rating of Platinum from the charity evaluation website GuideStar.

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, 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. We encourage giving to both PiE and the PTA. To find the PTA website for a specific PAUSD school, please click here.

Houses are so expensive, don’t the schools get enough from property taxes?

It is true that houses are very expensive in Palo Alto, however, because of Prop 13, the schools get a limited amount of funding from property taxes. Property owners in high performing districts in other states pay a higher percent of taxes on the value of their house.

PiE funds additional staff in the classroom that public dollars alone cannot provide. We have a hybrid system that combines the public tax dollars with donations from the community. Because of this ongoing partnership, it appears that the schools are well funded, however it is through property taxes alone.

PiE funds 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.

Funding Distribution Questions

How are PiE funds used?

Donations to PiE make up 60-77% of the site-directed 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. Over 250 additional supportive staff (aides, teachers, specialists, counselors, etc.) are funded in whole or in part by PiE. PiE reviews district financial reports to ensure that funds are spent in accordance with donor wishes.

PiE funds:


STEM: Instructors whose hands-on lessons and innovative teaching methods build key skills and ignite student interest in STEM.
The Arts: Art, music, theater, and other performing arts classes ensure a creative and well-rounded curriculum.
Wellness & Support: Supportive staff, including classroom aides, instructional assistants, math specialists, and counselors, who foster, enrich, and help differentiate teaching and learning for all students.

Middle School

STEM and The Arts: Compelling and practical electives focused on STEM and the Arts, such as broadcast video production, marine biology, Money Matters, creative writing, industrial technology, and music, spark students’ interest and build essential 21st century skills.
Wellness & Support: Counselors, mentors, and advisors support social-emotional learning for all students, as well as provide academic guidance, character education, online safety, and next-grade transition programs.

High School

STEM and The Arts: Engaging electives focused on STEM and the Arts, including BEAM (Business, Entrepreneurship, and Mathematics), orchestra, theatre, and broadcast journalism captivate students and build critical thinking skills.
Wellness & Support: Counselors, mentors, and advisors offer emotional and academic guidance as well as help build student resilience. PiE also funds College and Career Counseling advisors who provide individual counseling to help students consider a variety of pathways to success and plan wisely for the future.

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.

How are donations distributed?

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

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)
  • The Arts
  • Wellness and Support
How many students are in PAUSD? How many schools?

You can find information about the district on the PAUSD website.

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

A PAUSD School Board Policy decision made 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 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.

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.

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.

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 Employer Match page. Palo Alto Partners in Education’s EIN (Tax ID #) is 77-0186364.

Some companies invite employees to make a donation through an internal portal so the company can automatically provide a matching gift. If you do this, please tell us! We will note it in our records and will let you know when the gift arrives. Donations and matching gifts made through company websites often take 6-8 weeks to process before we are notified, and some take up to six months! If you let us know you initiated the donation, we won’t continue to send you requests for a gift (only periodic reminders if we don’t receive it from the company).

Can I donate by transferring stock or making a wire transfer?

Gifts of securities (stock) are warmly encouraged and can provide tax benefits to donors (please consult your tax attorney). To transfer securities, download instructions and email so we can recognize you and provide a tax receipt.

For information regarding wire transfers, planned giving or other gifts, including gifts in kind, please call Linda Lyon, Executive Director, at 650-329-3990 or email

What is a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF)? Can I use my DAF to make a gift to PiE?

A Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) is an account that holds and invests money set aside for charitable giving. The donor gets an immediate tax deduction when the funds are transferred to the DAF account instead of when each gift from that fund is made to a charity. The funds can be in cash, stock or other assets.

The fund is held by a nonprofit, called a sponsoring organization, that invests the assets and manages the donor’s account. These sponsoring organizations are often community foundations and nonprofit arms of financial-services firms. Once a fund is established, donors tell the sponsoring organization which charities they’d like to donate to from their accounts.

You should speak with a tax or financial expert about whether a Donor-Advised Fund is a good vehicle for your situation. The explanation above is not meant to serve as advice.

Once you have a DAF, you can make a donation to PiE by logging into your account and request that a grant be made for Palo Alto Partners in Education. Our Tax ID (also called an EIN number) is 77-0186364. If there is an option of whether or not to share your name and contact information with us, please do! That way we can attribute your gift to your record. (If you give anonymously, we get a check with no donor name and don’t know whom to thank!) You will not receive any goods or services for your donation. (They often ask about that.)

The sponsoring organization sends us a check. For some, it comes in a few days. Others can take a few weeks. We’ll let you know when the check arrives. You would have received the tax deduction when you contributed to the DAF so our acknowledgement letter will not have the tax receipt footer on it.

Please call our office at 650-329-3990 or email at if you have any questions.

With all the requests, like boosters and field trips, I’m feeling a bit tapped out.

We can relate. PiE volunteers are all parents and we 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.

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 46th 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.

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

The Parcel Tax that was renewed through Measure A in May 2015, and will again be on the ballot in 2020 or 2021, maintains some of the core funding lost in recent years, however it primarily goes toward salaries, building maintenance, and administration. The Parcel Tax provides $15.2 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.

What about the Bond that was passed for PAUSD called Measure Z?

The Bond that was passed by voters through Measure Z in November 2019 provides funds for capital expenses, like building maintenance and facility replacement. It does not provides any funds for staffing, so PiE’s grant to the District is still just as important with the passage of the Bond.

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.

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 rather low minimum school funding threshold set by the state, it receives little state funding (about 8%). While Basic Aid status gives PAUSD more local control over funding decisions, it also means a greater dependence on tax revenue.

Revenue can increase when houses are sold and higher property taxes are collected, however, 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 limited state and federal funding.

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.

  • 11,610 students in one unified school district: 1 Pre-K and Transitional
  • Kindergarten, 12 Elementary Schools, 3 Middle Schools, 2 High Schools
  • Annual budget is $256 Million—about 86% of budget is tied to compensation.
  • PAUSD revenue sources: local property taxes 80.3%), other State sources (4.4%), Parcel Tax (6.1%), lease revenue (4.0%), other revenue (1.9%), PiE (2.1%), Federal Revenue (1.3%).

While PiE dollars make up only 2.1% of the total revenue for PAUSD, they are close to 70% of the principal-directed funding each school has.

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 $1,200 per child is actually lower than the amount asked by many surrounding communities. By comparison, the per-child request in Hillsborough is $2,700, Menlo Park-Atherton is $2,000*, Los Altos is $1,200, Woodside is $4,800, and San Carlos is $1,800*. (*In combination with their parent clubs or PTAs.)

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

What were the results of the 2019-20 PiE campaign?

We presented the schools with a $5.97 million grant and $75,351 in additional PiE Innovation Grants for special innovative and collaborative projects.

What is PiE’s goal for 2020-21?

Each spring, PiE works to determine the District’s overall level of need through discussions with Principals and other district administrators. The 2020-21 grant goal is $5.095 million, plus $75,000 for PiE Innovation Grants.

Does PiE fund special needs students or another 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. 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 Innovation Grants program. Since its inception within the PiE predecessor organization, PAFE, more than 30 years ago, the PiE Innovation Grants program has 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.

Every child is a reason to give!  Donate now and help us make a difference.

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