Piece of Mind: Educational foundations provide valuable service

Education inequality — such as undeniably exists between schools in affluent communities and those in poor areas — is of concern to anyone who has compassion for others and who understands the value of good schooling to the future of our civilization. If all children, from the most tender age, could be guaranteed a solid education, our society would benefit in countless ways. Aristotle and Plato had that right.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, based in Paris, France, lists among the benefits of a well-educated society the following: People perform better in the labor market, they enjoy better health, violence is contained and civic engagement (i.e., participation at the polls) is improved.

No surprises there, right?

What does give me a jolt is the sharp criticism leveled at communities like ours where private foundations have been established to keep schools running when Sacramento funnels more and more cash toward the underperforming districts and leaves the high-achieving schools scrambling to keep programs in place. Such cries of “foul” were brought to light in our mother ship, the Los Angeles Times, in a July 12 article about summer school programs offered by these private foundations, which was followed up with a damning editorial in that paper about the practice. The naysayers suggest it gives undue advantage to students in the more affluent areas. The La Cañada Educational Foundation was one of the organizations pointed at with some derision. Our staff writer Sara Cardine dived into the subject this week, seeking local reaction to the pieces.

Here’s my two cents: I think it’s a worthy endeavor for the state to try to level the playing field by sending more money to the public schools in poorer areas, assuming that it is well spent once it arrives in their coffers and that the educational outcomes improve. (I haven’t seen much evidence that the additional monies are so far working their magic, but perhaps we need to give it more time.) However, I do have an issue with those who throw darts at the private foundations who are gifted at raising dollars from the local citizenry and then put them to use for the children attending public schools served by those foundations. Especially when, as is the case with our foundation, scholarships are offered to students — including those from out-of-district — who cannot afford the cost to attend the fully-accredited foundation-run summer school at La Cañada High that offers needed course work.

What never seems to be said when people harp on well-oiled machines like the educational foundations here, in Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach and elsewhere, is that they are pitching in because they understand the poorer districts are in need of a boost, but they don’t want their own children to go without key programming just because the state can’t give them as much as it can send to the lower-achieving districts. The foundations are simply picking up the slack. Also, I’m sure a fair number of the people living in those communities not only support their local public schools, but also dig deeply into their pockets to give to other charitable efforts geared toward assisting the less fortunate.

We need to do what’s best for our children. Period. The state needs to do a better job of holding districts in low-income areas — who are receiving more public education dollars than the more successful districts — accountable for their shortcomings. And the people who criticize the districts who have to beg their community for money just to maintain necessary programs should instead focus on whether or not the additional state dollars given to the other districts are being put to good use.


CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. Email her at carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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