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School Board to Vote Whether to Make Up Santa Monica-Malibu Ed Foundation Funding Shortfall

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said that the Education Foundation asked the School Board to make up the funding gap. The School Board, with the support of the Superintendent, decided to vote on the issue. The article has been updated to reflect this information.

February 4, 2014 -- After coming up short of its $4 million fundraising goal, the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation may get some help from the School Board.

After a months-long campaign by the Ed Foundation, the District’s fundraising arm may get a $800,000 from the School Board after Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s first effort to raise funds to pay for personnel to run extracurricular programs on a district-wide level fell short.

Without the extra boost from the School Board, however, the Santa Monica and Malibu schools may see some of the extracurricular and academic support programs cut back, officials said.

Even though the Ed Foundation fell short of its goal, Executive Director Linda Greenberg Gross called the effort “very impressive.”

Of the 16 schools in the district, two schools -- Will Rogers and Olympic High School -- saw 100 percent of parents donate to effort since fundraising started last July.

About 79 percent of the $3.2 million raised came from parents and community members with another 12 percent coming from corporations and local businesses.

“I'm really proud that we got there in this first year when there was not full participation,” said Ed Foundation Executive Director Linda Greenberg Gross.

Gross was referring to the fact that the four Malibu schools had the lowest percentage of families participate in the district-wide fundraising effort -- known as Vision for Student Success (VSS) -- and only one of Malibu’s four Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) contributed any funds.

“We've had a hard time raising funds for our PTA,” said Seth Jacobson, who is a member of the Juan Cabrillo Elementary School PTA.

“It's been really difficult to get people really excited” about district-wide fundraising, said Jacobson, who also heads the Shark Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for Malibu High School.

PTAs raised about $90,000 for the effort.

When the School Board approved the district-wide fundraising program in December 2011, it set off waves of protests from parents who said that it would unfairly prohibit them from making direct donations to their children’s schools to support extracurricular activities and academic support personnel.

Under the district-wide fundraising program, those donations would instead be pooled and then meted out to support programs at all Malibu and Santa Monica schools.

After the decision, a move to make Malibu into a separate district began to pick up traction.

But Jacobson insists that the move to separate the districts had nothing to do with the low participation rates by Malibu families.

“There were a lot of disgruntled parents from both Santa Monica and Malibu,” said Jacobson who helped oversee the implementation of the district-wide fundraising initiative as a member of the Superintendents Advisory Committee (SAC).

Since district-wide fundraising is an ongoing initiative, the Ed Foundation will have to raise about $4 million every year to keep the level of programs up.

To that end, Gross said that the Ed Foundation would start to target alumni, as well as current and retired employees.

And, “next year we're going to be communicating more directly with Malibu families,” she said.

“We used PTAs to get the message out for us” this year, she said. “Sometimes that message got out. Sometimes it didn't.”

Gross said that she expects that enthusiasm for the program over time.

“Once families, principals, parents, teachers, staff, once they see what this program is, they are going to want to support it,” she said.

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