Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation?

MPAEF is a parent-led non-profit organization that, for the past 36 years, has been raising critical funds to support quality education at the four public schools of the Menlo Park City School District:  Encinal, Laurel, Oak Knoll, and Hillview.  Last year, the MPAEF gave a check to the school district for $3.7 million to allow the district to fund 37 teachers and school specialists for art, science, music, counseling, and library programs across the district.

Why should I donate to MPAEF?

Everyone decides their own priorities when it comes to charitable giving to non-profits, and MPAEF hopes donors will stay close to home. The simple fact is that the State of California is not currently supporting education at a level that will provide the education we expect for Menlo Park-Atherton students. Our community values education, believes in our students, and has made MPAEF a philanthropic priority for over three decades. An investment in MPAEF is an investment in Menlo Park-Atherton kids and our community.

Why do our public schools need financial support from our community?

The Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) is community funded which means that state and federal government funding makes up only 11.9% of our budget.

MPCSD funding pie chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why is MPCSD community funded?

We are community funded due to California's unique tax laws.  This is primarily driven by the 1978 passing of Proposition 13, which decimated funding in California schools by reducing property taxes by nearly 60%. (1) Virtually overnight, class sizes ballooned and critical programs and staff were cut across the board - California now ranks 46th in funding per student (adjust for cost per living).(2)  To compound this lack of funding, unlike other similar cities to Menlo Park, only 18% of our local property taxes go to our schools, leaving a sizable gap.  Therefore, parents in our community created the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation (MPAEF) and school PTOs to restore the quality in our local schools

How does the MPAEF and PTO fit together?

MPAEF’s core mission is fundraising, while each school’s PTO’s (Parent-Teacher Organization) core mission is community-building, child advocacy, parent education, classroom and teacher support.  There are important differences in what MPAEF and each school’s PTO can support through fundraising efforts.  For example, only MPAEF dollars can fund accredited teacher salaries.  MPAEF’s district-wide grant benefits every TK-8th grade student, creates equality and consistency among school sites, and ensures equitable and effective allocation of program, staff, and resources across the district. Your school’s PTO raises money to address site-specific needs such as family events, classroom supplies, field trips and culturally enriching programs. Both organizations are important for your school to thrive.

Does the Foundation tell the School District how to spend its annual grant?

No, the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation (MPAEF) does not dictate where funds are spent in the Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD).  The MPCSD School Board decides how the funds are spent on an annual basis. The MPAEF Board of Directors allocates an unrestricted grant to Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) each Fall based on the funds that were raised during the previous fiscal year ending on June 30th.

How are decisions made on what is funded?

Funding priorities are identified through input from MPCSD’s administration, School Board, and information collected through parent surveys and public comments at school board meetings. Final program and funding decisions rest with Menlo Park City School District’s administrators and our elected school board members who manage the district budget.

Can I earmark my MPAEF donation to a specific program? 

No. The MPCSD Board and administration make the decisions about how to spend the district budget, and MPAEF’s grant gives them added flexibility. If you have input on district spending, it’s important for you to voice your opinions to your elected MPCSD Board Members and the Superintendent of Schools. Board meetings are held the second Tuesday of every month and are open to the public.  Additional information including upcoming board meeting agendas and board/staff contact information is available via the MPCSD website (https://district.mpcsd.org/MenloPark).

What if I am displeased with my student’s experience?

For questions or concerns about programs, you should contact your elected School Board Members, who represent you – their constituency – in ensuring district administration is doing what the voters want. For specific concerns about your student, we encourage you to talk with your teacher. If your concern isn’t resolved, talk with your school’s principal. In most cases, issues can be resolved at the school level. All MPCSD stakeholders are committed to providing every student in the district the best education possible and fostering a lifelong love of learning.

How is MPAEF governed?

MPAEF is governed by a 60-member Board of Directors and supported by four paid staff members: one full-time Executive Director and three part-time Office Administrators, who often are district parents. The Board of Directors is comprised of current parents in the school district, with representation from all schools. Directors’ terms are for two years, commencing on July 1 and concluding on June 30, and are staggered to ensure smooth leadership transitions. In addition to the Board of Directors, there are more than 75+ MPAEF volunteers who generously give their time to help ensure that our largest community events (Auction and Schoolhouse Rocks Run) are successful. Learn more about our organizational structure and board members HERE.

What do MPAEF finances look like? Is the organization fiscally responsible?

MPAEF accrues typical business expenses, such as insurance, office supplies, postage, and staff salaries. We work very hard to keep our expenses reasonable, managing them at 10% of revenues, which even includes expenses for our annual auction event and Schoolhouse Rocks Run & Festival.  Also, like any fiscally responsible non-profit organization, we maintain board restricted savings (reserve) to ensure stability in our budget planning from year-to-year. MPAEF is transparent about finances.  Our financial documents are always available to review on the Foundation’s website and you can learn more about our finances with our recent annual report

What happens if MPAEF does not meet its fundraising goal?

If MPAEF does not meet its annual fundraising goal, the Menlo Park City School District may have to reduce or eliminate MPAEF-funded programs in current or future years, as there is no other source for funding these programs. It is only thanks to your support that these essential programs and services continue to be provided for each of our students.

Are my contributions tax-deductible?

Yes!  Your donations to the MPAEF are tax-deductible because it is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. MPAEF’s individual tax ID number is #94-2871701.

Will my employer match my contribution?

Many employers will match your contributions to non-profit organizations, doubling the impact of your contribution.  Once you have donated, CLICK HERE to find out how to submit your corporate match.

Can I donate stock or bonds?

Yes, MPAEF will gladly accept the donation of stock or bonds. We encourage you to check with your financial advisor regarding the tax-deductibility of your gift. For more information please visit our donation page.

Can I make my donation in installments?

Yes! Many people spread payments out over time. You can sign up for an automatic credit card payment each month, or you can create a custom monthly payment schedule, provided payments conclude no later than the end of the school year. Create a payment plan online or call the MPAEF office at (650) 325-0100.

Are my purchases at the Auction tax-deductible?

Auction items are almost never tax deductible. If you buy an item that is available generally in the marketplace for more than its face value, the difference might be deductible. The amount of the auction price in excess of the item’s fair market value may qualify as a charitable deduction.   Consult your tax advisor for specific details.

Why am I still getting email? My family already gave this year.

With thousands of households in the Menlo Park City School District, we need to reach out several times throughout the year. This means we sometimes communicate to families who have already donated. Please know that our goal is simply to ensure that we get enough family involvement and support to fund the programs that are so valuable to each child’s education.

How else can I help?

In addition to your annual donation, there are a number of other ways to help support MPAEF:

  • Earn money for MPAEF while you shop. Some merchants will automatically donate to MPAEF while you shop.  Learn what merchants to visit and how to sign up for shopping rebate programs.
  • Attend the Spring Auction Party. MPAEF encourages everyone to attend this annual event. Our next Auction Party is March 16, 2019. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
  • Volunteer. MPAEF relies on many volunteers for our success. Make new friends and have fun while doing something vitally important for our schools!  Learn about opportunities.