A BPEF grant of $44,000 will help complete the establishment of over 160 K-5 classroom libraries with consistent collections of titles. Photo: BPEF

The Berkeley Public Education Foundation (BPEF) announced this week a record total of $244,000 in grants funding over 400 teachers in Berkeley public schools.

“We’re counted on by teachers who are now looking under every rock for funding,” said Molly Fraker, executive director of BPEF. “There’s not any public funding left for this kind of thing.”

The largest award is a single $44,000 grant to complete a two-year effort to build permanent book collections in every classroom throughout Berkeley’s 11 elementary schools, done in conjunction with the school district. But awards range widely, with most being for a few hundred dollars for projects like teaching nutrition while making smoothies for preschoolers at Hopkins, to purchasing a color printer for visual materials at the Arts Magnet, to plants and supplies for the school garden and chickens at John Muir Elementary. The complete list can be downloaded as a spreadsheet.

The awards include 40 grants for field trips as far-ranging as Yosemite and as near as UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances; 58 grants for technology equipment or educational software purchases; and more than 65 grants that fund dance, theater, music and visual arts projects.

In addition to the extraordinary book collection grant, other large awards include $8,900 for a full classroom set of 17 compound microscopes for Bret Wallen’s class at King Middle School, $5,135 for a workshop and tour at Lawrence Berkeley Lab for every fifth grader in the district, and $2,600 for the BHS Jazz Ensemble trip to Cuba.

According to Fraker, there was “a real uptick” this year in both applications and grants for math and science. The foundation was able to fund the vast majority of the 270 applications received, she said, thanks to strong support from donors.

“We hit our goals and eked a little past this year,” Fraker said. “Our hope is people will dig a little deeper for their local schools. All the cuts [at state level] are going to ripple through and hit our district.”

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...