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Unintended consequence of foundation groups: inequality

Some believe that the fundraising organizations formed to increase educational opportunities in schools are reintroducing a funding imbalance within districts.

April 26, 2014|By Hannah Fry

On a typical day at Harbor View Elementary School in Corona del Mar, students use iPads to complete spelling exercises, learn math facts and work on reading activities.

The iPads were paid for by the Harbor View Dads group, a fundraising organization that spent several years raising enough money to purchase 172 devices for the students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Whittier Elementary is just a short drive up the freeway in Costa Mesa, but in many respects is worlds away from getting the technology the students at Harbor View have at their fingertips, said Patrick DeVusser, a fourth-grade teacher at Whittier.

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The situation casts light on a question that few Newport-Mesa Unified School District parents, teachers and administrators would like to discuss: Are students in middle-class Costa Mesa getting the same educational opportunities as those in more affluent Newport Beach?

"It's that thing that no one wants to say because you can't fix it," DeVusser said. "It's more complex than one simple solution."

Newport-Mesa Unified is a basic aid district, which means that property taxes create enough revenue to fund school budgets without supplemental state funding. From that pool of money, the district dolls out funds equally based on the number of students being served at a particular school.

Some schools in Costa Mesa's lower-income areas receive additional funds through Title 1, which was created to ensure that all children, regardless of their family's income, have a fair and equal opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.

Newport-Mesa Unified serves more than 21,000 students at 32 elementary, intermediate and high schools on a budget of about $242 million.

Many parents believe the district's budget is not enough to adequately serve each of the schools, allowing them to churn out the high-caliber students that the world has come to expect from the next generation.

For this reason, some in the community have banded together to create nonprofit parent foundation groups that raise money to supplement the district's core programs, said Diana Long, executive director of the Newport Harbor Education Foundation, which serves Newport Harbor High School.

In addition to technology like iPads, foundations can help to fund part-time teacher salaries, supplemental programs like music and art and enhanced science programs, as well as pay for other classroom items that teachers would otherwise pay for themselves.

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