PiE funding deficit to affect Paly staff

For the first time in years, Palo Alto’s Partners in Education, a non-profit organization that raises money for the district’s public schools, has failed to reach its funding target.

In August 2016, PiE launched their annual fundraising campaign, aiming to secure $5.6 million in donations for the 2017-18 school year. While targets have been reached between late February and early March in the past, PiE is seeing a donation gap this time around and will most likely end the year under their goal.

Given this deficit, PiE has been asking school principals to send emails urging parents to support the organization, which has donated more than $30 million to the Palo Alto Unified School District since 2005 to support science and art enrichment, emotional well-being programs, and additional electives.

However, most of the funding is utilized to pay for personnel. Last year, Paly received more than $800,000 from PiE, with around ninety percent going to guidance counselors, classroom aides, and teacher advisors, according to Paly Principal Kimberly Diorio.

With the unanticipated drop in donations this year, many of these provisions could possibly be reduced, if not completely canceled.

“[PiE funding] is pretty necessary,” Diorio says. “But I’m not too worried. I think Paly has enough of a buffer so we can pay for personnel costs even with the deficits.”

Despite staff staying intact, some conveniences will not be able to be implemented. As the limited college counseling services at Paly have been unable to support the needs of students, with many unable to schedule meetings, Diorio has hoped for a while to be able to hire an additional college advisor. But the lack of donations combined with district budget cuts makes this possibility seem unlikely.

While PiE funding provides many benefits for the Palo Alto school district, Diorio says that none of them are essential to the core of education.

“We’ll make it work,” Diorio says. “The idea is to keep the impact out of the classroom.”