Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS WESTFIELD EDUCATION FUND’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SCHOOL DISTRICT AND THE BOARD OF EDUCATION?
WEF was founded by community members in partnership with the school district and Board of Education and we continue to work closely together on our shared goal of strengthening education for Westfield’s students. We work as a collaborative partner to understand the educational needs in Westfield and provide funding for desired programs and initiatives that are not able to be funded through the school budget.
HOW IS WESTFIELD EDUCATION FUND DIFFERENT FROM OUR SCHOOL PTO?
The Westfield Education Fund and our PTOs both provide critical support for our schools’ success, but have different areas of focus. While PTOs support important day-to-day needs of individual schools (such as lunchroom assistance, playground improvements, air conditioners, etc), WEF is focused on improving academic and social-emotional learning for all of our students. WEF monitors best-practices in education and learning, with a future-looking lens. We select and fund high impact initiatives that will bring innovative learning opportunities to all Westfield schools, striving to strengthen education in the district as a whole.
Don’t property taxes cover school expenses?
Across the country, schools are experiencing significant funding challenges. In Westfield, our student enrollment has increased over 40% over the past 25 years, yet state funding has decreased almost 50%. The Westfield Board of Education has done a lot to improve operational efficiencies and has brought down the average cost per pupil to $13,284, below the State average of $14,940. As a result, the Board is faced with difficult budgetary choices each year. Private funding has become a necessity to ensure that our schools can continue to provide the high quality education we have come to expect from them. Our teachers and administrators are being asked to do more with less. We need your help to ensure our children continue to benefit from new programs and cutting-edge ideas.
Is the concept of an Education Fund unique to Westfield?
There are more than 50 education foundations in New Jersey and over 3,000 education foundations in communities across the country with missions similar to WEF.
Many of our neighboring school districts such as Summit and Millburn raise upward of $300,000 per year, greatly outpacing Westfield’s historic fundraising. These education foundations are able to make a huge difference in their school districts and provide for many of the “extras” that Westfield cannot currently afford. Our vision is to increase the level of fundraising in Westfield so we can provide similar levels of support and significantly expand the benefits to our schools.
WHO BENEFITS FROM WEF INITIATIVES?
Our goal is for ALL students in grades K-12 enrolled in the Westfield Public Schools to benefit from WEF’s initiatives. Historically, individual teachers from different schools in Westfield submitted requests for grants to be considered for funding. However, WEF’s levels of fundraising allowed only a small number of teachers to receive grant funding each year, limiting the scope of students benefiting from WEF programs.
A new WEF Board of Directors was appointed in 2018. As a result of a strategic planning process, the WEF Board decided to shift to a model of funding that is district-wide in order to maximize our impact. Rather than fund projects in response to individual requests, the WEF Board will fund strategic areas of focus that have been identified as high priority. This new approach will allow us to fund programs that reach a wider range of students across multiple schools. Decisions about which programs to fund are made in conjunction with the WEF board, district leadership, and the Board of Education.