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A bit of a disparity in private fundraising for Boston public schools

Pie chart showing how much more of a private endowment Boston Latin School has than every other BPS school

The parent group Quality Education for Every Student today released data and charts showing the differences between different BPS schools when it comes to private fundraising. One school obviously stands out.

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"Requests that privately raised funds be examined annually through an equity
analysis and that measures be taken, as is done in other districts, to level the playing field." In other words, re-distribute privately-raised funds to all BPS schools.

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Voting closed 42

How would the district get authority to effectively seize money from private nonprofits? These were funds given voluntarily to specific nonprofits, at times for specific purposes.

I get the point of this report—there should be equal funding for all schools—but this particular solution seems unworkable.

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Voting closed 45

Clearly all of these private non-profits will simply agree to do it because of this report from this obviously not at all biased parent group that no one has heard of before!

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I first heard of them when I was an actual BPS parent, so they've been around for awhile, since I haven't been a BPS parent for awhile.

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Actually, I stopped giving years ago when I realized Latin might actually have enough. It doesn't mean however I want my donations to be forcibly shared with Another Course To College or the Academy of Retail Cashiering.

Nevertheless, we have a well designed website with no names attached to it. No disclosure of funding on who underwrites the organization, no members board, nothing. This is kabuki.

There have been 20 shares on the Facebook page as of this morning. Of the 5 people who shared it and a few more people who like it, guess where they all live? It's not Roxbury, Dorchester, Allston, Brighton, Mattapan, Charlestown, East Boston, or South Boston. They all come from the Can't Afford Cambridge Corridor of JP and Roslindale. You know the place where everything should be equitable except when you sell your condo for a huge profit.

Vermont had an issue about 20 years ago with "Gold Towns" being forced to pay higher taxes to underwrite poorer towns and their school districts. That was public money. Like Ashland getting a cut of Dover's money to put towards schools. This is different. This is private money, which has been growing for decades, and in Latin's case, for centuries. By the way, Boston Arts Academy has an endowment of $15,230 per pupil and it is only 24 years old? Good for them.

You can't take my money ye Daughters of Bella Luna and use it your way because you don't think it is fair. Life is not fair. Welcome to the show.

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On a dataset with an obvious outlier, the group should take BLS out of the question and see to the extent to which their so-called findings still hold true.

In other words, if any reasonable person acknowledges Latin's unique history (as the first public high school in the country, etc. etc.) and excludes the school from statistical analysis, there would probably be no disparities in fundraising. If anything, given BAA's majority-minority student population and its relatively large endowment, the analysis without BLS might even show that Black and Latinx students benefit disproportionately!

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First we would have to know the demographics at BAA. How you presume that the largest population at the school is Black and Latinx is interesting!

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That data is easily accessible through DESE. BAA is definitely majority Black and Latinx students.

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Or you could look it up and see that they're right:

https://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx?orgcode=00350546&org...

African American 41.7
Asian 2.1
Hispanic 41.7
Native American 0.4
White 8.9
Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander 0.2
Multi-Race, Non-Hispanic 5.0

(Correct about BAA demographics that is; not commenting as to the rest of it.)

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Our Class President died of cancer at age 36. He was a great guy. Very subtle but very determined and would have made a great Mayor of Boston someday. He was involved in public service and was a person who would go far. He was also gay and African American, not some stereotypical evil fourth or fifth generation West Roxbury Irish American kid that somehow everyone thinks is the population of Latin.

After the shock of his death, a good number of our class got together and decided to endow a scholarship in his name. The money, which let's put it this way is about the total income of two people making the prevailing retail wage in the city for the year, earns enough just return that we can underwrite a person to be placed in a summer internship between their junior and senior year in a City, State, or Federal office in town. This gives them a great item on their application to get into an upper echelon college over let's face it; rich suburban kids with resources.

We get a lot of candidates. All with excellent resumes and academic records. A few of us still have tacit bias and try to steer it towards the kid who comes from a background like a lot of us; immigrant or second generation kids from neighborhoods that don't make the tourism brochures but make the if it bleeds it leads section of the news.

That is what Latin's endowment does.

And these people want to take it? No way.

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How can that be?

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Not how much they raise/spend each year.

BLS Association financial overview.

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the BLS number is a huge red flag that the data is “off.” What’s the point of showing numbers down to the dollar when you’re commingling endowment principal with an unspecified year’s annual fund. Yes, Latin has access to funds by virtue of their endowment, but they can’t just liquidate it.

I get what the point of the report is—advocate for increased and equal funding for all schools rather than leave it to the contingencies of whichever schools have a nonprofit fundraising for them and how successful that fundraising is—but this particular chart helps skew that argument.

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I'm not sure "you can't include the big pile of money that only one school here has while talking about the money that schools have" is necessarily a good argument here.

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They list the $59 million, and all other private funds at other schools with 501(c)3s, as “Total private funds available.” This is absolutely disingenuous; it is highly likely that the vast majority of that $59M for BLSA is the principal of their endowment, for which there are likely many restrictions on how much they can actually draw from that any given year and how it can be used. That money in total is most certainly not “available.” That’s the point I’m making.

As well, BPS in all likelihood has no legal way of getting at that money. Arguing for redistribution of monies given to private nonprofits is likely barking up a tree that doesn’t even exist.

What solutions do I see? Start a new nonprofit that ostensibly supports schools based on whatever needs you see are not being met. Advocate at local and state level that more monies are available to public schools. Look at the budgets of schools and see what needs aren’t being met: do some schools need more funding for ESL instruction than others? Literacy instruction? Counselors? STEM? Find foundations that support those and point them towards BPS.

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BLSA funding should be seized and redistributed? BLA should get less funding from BPS (already lowest per student I think?). I get the optics are brutal but I'm never clear on what the legally feasible and useful remedies are other than addressing admission inequities, which is being worked on.

For an example of budget disparity, BPS spends $14m on BLS for 2500 kids and $13m on Madison Park for 900 kids. The existence of BLSA helps BLS offer kids a quality education with stuff like music, more sports teams and other programming while allowing BPS to devote more resources to kids that need more assistance at Madison Park. We badly need schools like Madison Park to prepare Boston kids for good careers that might not require 4 years of college. However the issues of revolving leadership at Madison Park have fuck all to do with the fact that the BLS endowment funds the music program at BLS. So what's the actual purpose of this post - make people mad? Tear down the exam schools while solving nothing at Madison Park or English, etc? Must be nice to have a BLS graduate already through the system so you can throw rocks for clicks.

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Really? That's your takeaway, not that that chart makes you go: Wow, what can we do to help other schools raise more money?

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is larger than the sum total of all the endowments in the chart. $80 million budget increase vs. $79.2 million in endowments. The budget was up nearly 7% in spite of enrollment which is down nearly 5% vs. 2019-2020.

The other schools raise tons of money -- from the taxpayers. As others have pointed out, Madison Park HS gets way, way more money per student than BLS. The amount spent annually from the BLS endowment is a drop in the bucket when compared to the BPS budget.

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Brookline a few years back had a group that wanted to donate a large sum of money to help fund either a new auditorium or theatre program at the Runkle Elementary School. The Town said no, you can’t donate money to one school that’s inherently imbalanced and would obviously result in unequal educational opportunities throughout the school system (or that was the premise behind the denial). Whether or not Brookline has this written into their policies or not is a different story.

To be fair I don’t remember the entire story, and it could have been simply that the money could not be used for capital projects which could be the same for BLS and the BPS as well.

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It wasn't Runkle though (Runkle just had a major reno ~10 years ago). It was Heath or Baker IIRC -- both schools in wealthier parts of towns in a community with neighborhood school assignment.

The School Committee essentially stated that you can contribute money to the *next* capital project in line, but couldn't skip the line.

But the details are different than Boston. K-8 kids in Brookline are assigned to a specific school not a regional lottery, and none of the schools in question are exam schools. I don't know how the School Committee would have responded to an offer for a capital project at Brookline High School, where all kids are eligible to attend. And, of course, Brookline doesn't have an exam school at all.

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...other than addressing admission inequities, which is being worked on.

given the events of the last few months. and the passive voice — being worked on — to boot.

my kid is not BPS age, let alone BLS age so i don’t really have a lot of expertise in the area. but, it would seem to me that “admission inequities” would be a major factor in the cycle of private giving.

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I don't have kids, so I don't really have much skin in this game, but it seems pretty fucked up to me that public schools need to rely on private fundraising (and most of these schools are still massively underfunded).

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I have no expertise in this either, but I wonder if lack of money is the biggest issue. BPS spent $23k per student in 2019 -compared to the state average of $17k.

https://profiles.doe.mass.edu/statereport/ppx.aspx

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Grew up attending NH public schools. Parents and students most certainly fundraised to help make ends meet for the school. There were years where we had no pencils, paper or new library books because the town underfunded the high school. Coming from a working class small town that's just the way it was. That wealthy parents can simply donate and students don't work to pitch in was not the way it was where I grew up, however I wouldn't shame a school for receiving money from parents who can afford it.

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Unrelated, but I thought Fenway High School was the same as Boston Arts Academy?

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But they were always two different schools. Fenway moved out a few years ago to Jamaica Plain; while BAA next year moves into a brand-new building in the Fenway.

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That building, a former parking garage in Ipswich Street (now demolished) also once housed Boston State College in the 70s, though most people remember Boston State (if they remember it at all) for it's Huntington Avenue "campus". 90% of my classes at Boston State in the 70s were in the Ipswich Street building. It was pretty run down even then.

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Convenient to post this after one’s family member has already benefited from this privilege.

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yet it’s shown up twice so far on this post

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The live links provided in the press release do not provide this data.

I assumed it came from the remaining non-linked resource - “BPS Race and Private Funding,” by Erika F. Lee (B.A. Economics and Mathematics, M.A. Economics, Boston University 2022, [email protected]).

But...Is this a Master's thesis? I can't find anything by that title listed publicly, but I don't have ready access to the ProQuest Theses and Dissertations database. If someone here does...

p.s. it is interesting to note that if the numbers are correct, then the fundraising$/year-in-operation for BLS is about $154K, but for the Boston Arts Academy it's almost double at about $290K! I have to imagine this will really tee off the BSLA fundraising folks ;*P

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As a BLS alum, I have contributed almost every year since graduating in 95. Giving back was ingrained in us while we were there, and since then by the BLSA. They do an extraordinary job of connecting with us no matter where we end up in the world. And, they ASK! That, in my view is the simple reason explaining their success.

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Boston Latin graduates have a high rate of success later in life and donate more money back to the school, which is good in my opinion. So what can we do to improve the other schools so those graduates donate more money back to those schools after graduation? I have kids in BPS first grade and younger so I'm hoping someone can fix the situation so my kids don't have to get into the exam schools or leave the city to get a good education. From what I've heard no one has any good ideas to fix the problem schools since it's factors such as behavior, English as a second language and truancy that are driving factors behind the issues at schools.

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The factors behind school failure are ELL, as you mentioned, and then mostly the ills of poverty: food, transportation, and housing insecurity and lack of parental involvement because parents are working all the time, high cost of living leaving little for school supplies, extracurriculars, etc, parents who did not receive post-secondary education being ill prepared to equip their children for that route, cultures and neighborhoods who've been blown off by BPS for so long they inherently don't trust the system....

Taking some private organization's money and throwing it at the other schools isn't going to fix any of that. For that matter, why the hell is it the schools' job to fix all those things??

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For some reason, this discussion put me in mind of when I was at BLS in the early 70s. It was mandatory for every student to give $6 yearly for some mysterious thing called the "loyalty fund". It was later found that shady headmaster Wilfred O'Leary was dipping into this fund for elaborate dinners at the Harvard Club.

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i didnt even think it was legal to privately donate to a specific public sckool (and not an entire sckool district).

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The donors don't donate to the schools. They donate to charitable foundations whose existence is to give grants to the schools.

Way, way back in the day, a guy I knew through other people who was an alumnus of English High School gave a big donation to his old school. English had enough alums who have done okay (Leonard Nimoy jumps out) that they should have been able to establish an endowment of some sort, yet they aren't even on the chart. Kind of sad.

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Exam schools perpetuate inequality and simply siphon off the most gifted and well resourced students from everywhere else. The kicker is that it's not the exam schools that make these students successful. But removing them from the other schools does harm the remaining students, who then are further under-resourced and suffer from the burden of low expectations.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/04/01/magazine/its-time-boston-start-ta...

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Really?

Do you know the foundation that is underwriting the Globe "coverage" of the BPS, has an endowment of $1.175 billion and is bullying the city into their idea of what is fair?

Did you know the people behind the foundation had three teenagers living on Beacon Hill and sent their precious little ones to Milton Academy and other Prep Schools and not Boston Public Schools?

The Globe is beyond biased in this affair.

Let's not listen to really rich people telling us peasants what is good for us. They don't want us coming for their power and wealth. They would rather divide and conquer and keep their position a the top of the pyramid. Thanks,

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decrying efforts to correct structural inequities in another?

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The most gifted and well resourced get siphoned off by Andover, Exeter, Choate, NMH, Milton Academy, etc., or they go to high school in Brookline, Sudbury, Dover, etc. The ones who end up at the exam schools are the kids of middle- and upper-middle-class families, along with some from poor/immigrant families where the parent(s) understand the value brought by the exam school education and name.

The ultimate problem with splitting the gifted and talented kids among all the city high schools is that ultimately there aren't enough resources to offer the same set of educational choices which will give those kids a strong foundation for college. Ignoring Latin, do you think there are enough interested kids at each school to offer 4 years of Chinese, French, German, Italian, or Spanish? How about AP Chemistry or Physics? Or BC Calculus? And there's a lot of value to the smart kids in having others around them who will challenge them academically -- that's what they're going to face at a selective college or university.

I mean, we could make the same argument about Harvard and MIT -- they "perpetuate inequality and simply siphon off the most gifted and well resourced students from everywhere else. The kicker is that it's not the [universities] that make these students successful. But removing them from the other schools does harm the remaining students, who then are further under-resourced and suffer from the burden of low expectations." So Harvard and MIT students should instead be going to community college in their home towns/states in the name of equity.

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Voting closed 22

I recognize that not every BPS school can offer every course, although we should certainly strive to offer as many as possible at each school. To solve that problem, I would say that some schools could offer certain sets of courses or programs based on different tracks that are self-selected by students.

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You end up in more or less the same situation. A handful of schools will attract the brightest students due to their programs and reputation, and there won't be enough seats for all the kids who want to go there.

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