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.
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 SFEF Leadership Council is a group of outstanding community leaders who champion the organization’s mission to advance equitable education in San Francisco. The Leadership Circle acts as an advising body to the Board and organization, and also provides generous financial support.
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 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.
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