In 1978, Proposition 13 decimated funding for public education, moving San Francisco among the highest-funded school district in the country to among the lowest-funded, drastically shifting the trajectory of public schools and their programming for years to come. While the immediate effects of the proposition’s passing was devastating for many schools, teachers and students, it stirred up community support led by individuals who were eager to find solutions to bring back money and support to local public schools.
Community activist Glady Thacher strongly believed that the community needed to “reach out to the private sector and inject money and care into the schools.” She first took action by setting up a meeting at Grattan Elementary School – crossing through picket lines – to speak directly with the teachers and faculty. According to Glady, “I said in a very small voice, ‘Would anybody have a proposal to improve the public schools?’” This sparked many ideas, including from one teacher who said she wanted to create an outdoor education program for the school. Glady got to work, and – with the support of a citizen committee, the Superintendent of the school district, and the Board of Education – founded the San Francisco Education Fund in 1979.
The San Francisco Education Fund was the first explicit third-party intermediary in the Nation whose sole focus was to benefit local public-school teachers, students, and their schools. The Ed Fund began with a grassroots approach: raising money from private and corporate sources to be allocated to specific programs like theater performance studies, a solar greenhouse, a cultural center, and an after-school computer tutorial program at William de Avila School, “which will cost just $1,950 and may put some youngsters out in front of the computer age,” according to a Wall Street Journal article published in August 1980.
With significant initial operating funding coming from the S.H. Cowell Foundation, the Ed Fund quickly grew into an established organization that placed tens of thousands of dollars in grants into the hands of teachers across the district. At the time, Superintendent Robert Alioto said, “We are delighted to have this tangible link between schools and community. The [Ed] Fund… demonstrates that all San Franciscans have a stake in public schools.” By the end of her eleven-year tenure as the Executive Director of the Ed Fund, Glady had worked with local foundations and philanthropists to establish an endowment that would ensure teachers would have access to grants into the future. As of 2022, the organization has given over $15 million to students, teachers and schools in SFUSD.
Glady and the founding Ed Fund team were committed to mobilizing the community to bringing critical resources into public schools, and that mission has never wavered throughout the 40+ years of the Ed Fund’s history.
In 2009 the San Francisco Education Fund merged with San Francisco School Volunteers, an organization founded in 1963 by Gretchen de Baubigny to place community members in classrooms to support teachers and students.
School Volunteers merged with the San Francisco Education Fund, keeping the Ed Fund name while maintaining the essence of both organizations.
The Ed Fund took on a new project championed by then-Mayor Ed Lee: Circle the Schools (CTS). A partnership between sf.citi, the San Francisco Education Fund, and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), CTS cultivates our corporate community as champions and stewards of our schools.
Over the years, CTS has exposed thousands of students to the world of work – connecting them with experiences and role models that open their eyes to the careers available to them right here in San Francisco. In addition, corporate partners work with their school’s principal to identify and address needs that require concentrated resources and/or people power – like hosting a book drive to gather over 500 books to fill in the gaps in a school’s library–that are hard for individual schools or community members to do on their own.
The Maisin Scholar Award joined the San Francisco Education Fund, offering us a way to support San Francisco public school students who might not otherwise attend college. The award program was launched by The Alexander M. and June L. Maisin Foundation in 2000, distributing the first 50 scholarships of $4,000 each for the Class of 2001.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Ed Fund and SFUSD understood that families were hit hard and many were struggling more than ever to meet basic needs. In partnership with SFUSD, the Ed Fund solicited community donations to create a “COVID Relief Fund” for families identified by school site leaders as severely impacted by the pandemic. Families were able to use the funds at their discretion, increasing their flexibility around paying rent, buying groceries, or purchasing the next size of clothes, shoes or supplies for their children.
Simultaneously, staying home was impossible for thousands of essential worker parents, and a solution was needed to ensure their children had a safe and supported place to learn online each day. In partnership with DCYF, the SF Recreation and Parks Department, community-based agencies and other City departments, the Ed Fund implemented the Community Hub Initiative. This citywide, neighborhood-based strategy provided support for students in grades K-12 who were utilizing SFUSD’s Distance Learning curriculum, and prioritized children and youth with high levels of need. Read more about this nationally recognized accomplishment in, “Showing Up While Everything Is Shutting Down: A Story of Cooperation in San Francisco” written by David Phillips and Carolyn Gramstorff.
As schools began to plan for the return to in-person learning, SFUSD data confirmed that elementary students experienced lower literacy gains in 2020-21 than needed, so too many of our youngest students started the 2021 school year academically behind. Tutoring – particularly high-dosage tutoring that occurs at regular intervals – emerged as one of the most effective intervention approaches to accelerate learning, stay in school, and graduate from high school. Knowing that access to tutoring was vital to combating unfinished learning resulting from the pandemic, the Ed Fund partnered with SFUSD and BookNook to initially provide 2,000 students with FREE virtual literacy tutoring 3x/week with qualified tutors. In only one year, 42% of participants caught up to grade proficiency. Since its inception in 2021, the BookNook tutoring initiative has helped 5,000 students and counting. Read the original SFUSD press release here.
Additionally, in order to ensure high-quality summer program options for all SFUSD students navigating a new pandemic “normal”, The Ed Fund joined a coalition of community organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and city departments partnering to offer free in-person learning experiences for San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Students. Through the Summer Together Initiative in 2021 and 2022, the Ed Fund helped to facilitate $4.5M in funding for 4500 low-income students to attend fee-based summer camps for free.
The San Francisco Education Fund channels corporate and community volunteers and financial resources into schools to achieve its goal of improving student success in the San Francisco Unified School District.
The San Francisco Education Fund mobilizes the community to support equitable access to a quality education for public school students through tutoring and mentoring, scholarships, teacher grants, and corporate school adoption.
We envision a future where San Francisco public school students have equitable access to quality education so that they can engage and enrich the community.
The Ed Fund believes their primary focus is the student and all decisions are made based on what is most beneficial for the kids.
The Ed Fund believes in partnering and collaborating with the SF community to leverage the full power and breadth of our collective resources to invest in the success of public school students.
The Ed Fund believes all students deserve an equitable and inclusive education experience and the opportunity to thrive, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or other life circumstances.
The Ed Fund believes in tirelessly exploring and employing all promising avenues and proven means to best serve students. It is imperative to model resilience, agility and a growth mindset in addressing the ever-changing landscape and needs of public school students.
The Ed Fund’s staff members bring passion and experience in education, civic engagement, social issues and more to make a difference in the lives of our city’s young people.
These incredible Board members are the fiduciaries who steer the Ed Fund towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by championing our mission in the larger community and making sure we have the resources needed to achieve our goals.
The Leadership Council is a diverse group of outstanding leaders who champion the Education Fund’s mission and advise the organization. Members deliver the Education Fund’s message to new and unique audiences to enhance the organization’s profile, resources and effectiveness.
The San Francisco Education Fund Young Leaders Council (YLC) is a cohort of community members under 40 who are passionate about supporting youth and families in San Francisco and committed to bringing equitable access to education for every one of the city’s 50,000 public school students. The YLC brings awareness to the Ed Fund’s mission and advances its efforts in the areas of fundraising and community engagement. The YLC sets out to raise visibility of the Ed Fund’s work and events, namely, the Back to School Gala in the Fall; and to develop a broader and more diverse base of funders for the Ed Fund by leveraging existing connections in the SF Bay Area.
We will be engaging in the next recruitment cycle in March/April 2023. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions in the meantime.
We believe the Bay Area is stronger when we work together which is why we are proud to have thought partners in these organizations across the city and beyond.
We also collaborate with SF-based corporations to bring talent and resources to our schools. Together we work to close the equity gap by offering our students and schools opportunities to reach their full potential.