Commentary: Correcting the imbalance of school donations

Re "Apodaca: How can public schools compete for donations?" March 3:

Perhaps there's a way around the paradox columnist Patrice Apodaca revealed when she pulled back the curtain on fiscal fairness in the school district: The neediest get the least when all sources are totaled up.

She ably presents the downside of the district's long-time policy of evenhandedly distributing district resources. Because of this policy, low-income schools get the same district resources as the high-income schools, even though their needs are higher.

Further, while there are government grants to supplement district funds for low-income schools, high-income parents can more than compensate by funding foundations for their child's particular school.

The evenhanded district policy comports well with the conservative leanings of the population: Fairness implies equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome, and taxes should not be used for charity.

However, Newport-Mesa folks are charitable. This area has a well-developed charitable history: Many individuals love to give of themselves to the less fortunate.

While macro charity at the district level doesn't seem to be in the cards, this charitable propensity suggests there may be something on the micro end of the charity scale that could be rewarding to both the low- and high-income schools.

Perhaps a high-income school could "adopt" a low-income school in the district. There are many precedents for this sort of charity, but the "adoptees" are usually in far off places. This adoption would be local.

The parties could work out unique support that would appeal to each adopter and adoptee school. An advantage of this approach is that the givers would get direct feedback for their efforts instead of seeing their funds mingled with others and losing their identity. The receivers would get to know the givers and be able to return the favor in ways only they can.

Granted, many of the benefits of such micro charity would be of the warm and fuzzy variety. And with today's focus on immediate return on investment, it would be hard to sell this idea on a dollars-and-cents basis.

But the many intangible benefits just might be attractive enough for parents to try it out. There isn't much to lose.

TOM EGAN lives in Costa Mesa.

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