Dear Lafayette families,
The HSA Board is presenting a Bear Fund Equity Pledge to the parent community. In short, we hope to pledge 10% of funds raised during Lafayette’s annual fundraising campaign (known as our Bear Fund campaign) to be donated to the DC Public Education Fund (DC Ed Fund). The DC Ed Fund is a local non-profit that directly supports DC public schools with private funding. Our goal is to help support DCPS students beyond the immediate Lafayette community.
We are asking for your feedback and support. Please provide your vote on this proposal via virtual voting open now through Tuesday, September 15. Voting will close at 9 pm on Tuesday, September 15.
We also will present more information at our General Meeting on Tuesday, September 8, at 6:30 pm via Zoom. Please see below for some FAQs outlining the proposal below.
What’s the proposal?
We propose that we allocate 10% of all funds raised during our annual fundraising campaign (known as our Bear Fund campaign) to be donated to the DC Public Education Fund (DC Ed Fund). Historically, we have aimed to raise $150,000 annually through the Bear Fund campaign (starts on October 1 this year). If we meet our fundraising goals for this year, we would donate $15,000.
Why is the Board proposing the equity pledge?
For a number of years, the HSA has struggled with the question of whether to allocate our funds to DCPS schools or students beyond the Lafayette community. On the one hand, our mission is to support Lafayette Elementary school, and we have consistently messaged our fundraising as focused on the support of students and programming at the school. At the same time, we have been asked countless times by parents whether and how HSA funds could be used to address needs in the larger DCPS community for students who are furthest from opportunity.
As a school that has a robust fundraising history, we have asked ourselves:
- How can we contribute to closing the opportunity gap for children in DC?
- What is our role in reaching students furthest from opportunity?
Examining these questions and spurred by the unprecedented times we face, where economic uncertainty and school changes create the potential for an increasing, rather than decreasing, opportunity gap, we believe this is a critical moment to help support students across the city.
Why don’t you just encourage families to donate on their own?
We believe it is important to take this step as an organization because we have the opportunity to aggregate parent donations in a way that makes a larger impact. We believe the pledge reflects the values we share as a school community and sets a good example for our children as members of the larger DCPS community.
What about Lafayette’s other fundraisers outside of the Bear Fund?
At this time, we will be focusing on the Bear Fund. We do not yet plan to allocate similar pledges from other fundraisers like the spring auction.
Where will the funds go?
We will make a donation to the DC Public Education Fund, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works closely with District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). We will work closely and collaboratively with the Fund to determine the most critical needs and how our funds can best be allocated.
Why did the Board choose the DC Ed Fund?
We prioritized finding an organization that is well established and already has the experience, insight, and connection to make sure our funds are well managed and distributed. We wanted to make sure our funds could be used in way to reach students at DCPS schools regardless of whether the school has an existing PTO or HSA, but in similar ways in which we focus our funds – on programming or, like this year with our COVID relief grants and supply donations, to meet basic needs like access to food and educational supplies.
DC Ed Fund is unique; it is an independent non-profit, accountable to its donors and independent Board, but it works in close partnership with DCPS. We also value their transparency and their over ten-years of experience working with DCPS. Also, while much of their focus is on larger scale institutional innovation, they are able to work with donors to identify critical needs affecting DCPS students, including projects such as providing grants to ensure students experiencing homelessness have their basic needs met.
DC Ed Fund Executive Director (and fellow Lafayette parent) Jeanie Lee will attend the September 8 meeting to give an overview of the Fund and to answer any questions. She previously presented to the HSA Board, who unanimously approved the DC Ed Fund as the intended organization to facilitate fund distribution.
Will this pledge impact funding for Lafayette based programs and staff?
The programming and staffing needs at Lafayette are different this year because of virtual learning. The HSA board and school leadership are committed to funding all current programs and staff needs as approved by the HSA budget, to the extent those programs are possible in a virtual environment. We also recognize we need to remain nimble and address needs as they change and arise. We are hopeful that parents will consider giving more to the Bear Fund knowing that part of their donation goes to help students outside of Lafayette.
I thought there was a DC PTA Equity Bill being proposed by the DC Council? Why not wait for that?
The proposed bill remains with the Council after an initial hearing in early March. We do not anticipate any movement this year. Moreover, with our own initiative, we have the ability to have a say in how our funds are allocated. Should the proposed bill pass, we would reevaluate at that time.
Are other area HSAs/PTOs doing this?
Not yet! We would be the first to work with the DC Ed Fund. We hope other area parent organizations will follow our lead and make an even larger impact across DCPS in a sustainable way and in a way that reaches students at schools, even those without existing parent teacher organizations. Past HSAs have donated to past initiatives (read more here, for example about support for the Parent Empowerment Program, which provided funds to and helped establish new PTOs). We hope to build on this approach with an eye towards long-term, sustainable action.
Anu Mullick and Brianne Cohen
Lafayette HSA Co-Presidents