Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation Gets Half a Million Dollar Boost
By Jason Islas
August 30, 2013 -- With six months to go to raise $4 million for its district-wide fundraising drive, the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation announced Wednesday that it received a $500,000 gift.
The donation, the second largest in the Foundation's 30-year history, comes from the Scott Family Charitable Fund and will be committed entirely to funding the district's new “Vision for Student Success” initiative, the district-wide fundraising policy adopted in December 2011.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity to accept this monumental gift,” said Linda Greenberg Gross, the Education Foundation's executive director. “This gift is the largest ever from one of our District families, and it serves as affirmation of the critical importance of the Vision for Student Success (initiative).”
As part of that initiative, the Education Foundation has to raise $4 million by the end of January 2014 and with this new gift, the Foundation is halfway there.
“I'm pretty optimistic, with school just having started, that we are on track for reaching that goal,” Gross said.
“Our donations will hopefully not only come from parents, but businesses” and other stakeholders in the community, she said.
Still, she admitted that this year would be a challenge.
“This is the year that schools have to raise funds for their existing budget as well as raise additional funds” for the Vision for Student Success initiative.
While that initiative is well on its way to being fully funded, it proved to be a controversial proposition when officials first floated the idea two years ago.
The centralized funding plan bars Parent-Teacher Associations from raising money to pay for teachers, classroom aides and other personnel as well as for “premium programs,” but it still allows parents to make direct donations to their children's schools for supplies and other materials, like computers.
Money slated for programs and personnel is pooled and redistributed to all the schools in the district.
Though supporters of centralized fundraising argue that it will ensure equity in programs offered at Santa Monica and Malibu schools, its detractors worry that it could lead to a decline in donations and a loss of programs. (“Santa Monica - Malibu School Board Approves Controversial Gift Policy,” December 1, 2011)
A $4.8 million donation made by the estate of Peggy Bergmann last September gave the initiative a dramatic head start.
While the total amount of the donation exceeds the Foundation's goal, officials actually earmarked half the money to start a musical program for disadvantaged youth in the district.
The other $2.4 million was placed in the district-wide fund, but the Foundation isn't counting it all as part of its fundraising effort for this year.
“We have allocated that money over three years and we've set aside a reserve as well,” Gross said.
She believes that the Foundation will have little trouble drumming up the other $2 million it needs to meet its goal for the start of 2014.
“We do know that parents are the most invested in their children's education,” she said, adding that she expects they will respond enthusiastically.
The Foundation is also working with individual schools to make sure that they each have plans to help raise funds for the district pool.
And if the Foundation fails to reach its goal, there's also a plan, Gross said.
If the funds aren't coming in as the deadline approaches, Superintendent Sandra Lyon will discuss exactly how to handle the problem with her advisory committee, a 42-person group made up of administrators, parents and union representatives.
Until then, Gross said, “We're going to think positively and do everything we can to meet the goal.”
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