The Santa Monica=Malibu Education Foundation announced Monday it had fallen $800,000 shy of a $4 million fundraising goal it set last year in the first campaign of a hotly debated new fundraising model intended to raise the level of education in the school district’s lower-income areas to its wealthier counterparts.
According to figures released by the Ed Foundation, Malibu’s four public sch ools generated the least amount of donations to the campaign among the district’s 16 schools.
To make up for the shortfall, Superintendent Sandra Lyon is asking the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education to allocate $800,000 to the Ed Foundation at a meeting on Thursday in Malibu. In the somewhat unlikely event the board declines to allocate the funds to make up the difference, Lyon will be tasked with possibly eliminating certain programs in Malibu and other schools.
“We want to make sure that this program starts off with the best footing,” board member Nimish Patel said, regarding the allocation. “...Next year if we’re short, we’ll have to live within the means of what the Ed Foundation raises, and we’ll have to deal with that.”
The fundraising campaign, called the Vision of Student Success (VSS) program, was borne out of a controversial move to a districtwide fundraising model in 2011 that prohibited parents from donating money directly to individual schools for support staff and additional programs, instead making the Ed Foundation the sole fundraising vehicle for the district. The model met resistance in Malibu, where many parents believed the program would essentially transfer money from Malibu schools to Santa Monica schools.
Assigned with raising $4 million annually, district and Ed Foundation officials say the funds will be used to pay for sports coaches and assistants at each elementary school, smaller classes, professional development programs at each school and discretionary money for specific initiatives at each school in 2014- 2015. In its inaugural campaign this past year, the Ed Foundation asked families to donate $365 to the campaign per student, or $1 a day.
Out of 16 schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, Malibu’s four public schools had the least participation from parents. Point Dume Marine Science School had the smallest participation, with six of 183 families (3.3 percent) making contributions). Malibu High School had an 8.4 participation rate, Juan Cabrillo Elementary saw 8.8 percent donate and 18.8 percent of Webster Elementary families donated.
Ed Foundation Executive Director Linda Gross said the foundation does not track exact amounts given based on schools, though some have argued the percentage of the $3.2 million that came from Malibu donors could have been higher than Santa Monica donors.
“It’s something we decided we were not going to track. We are trying to create a culture of philanthropy,” Gross said.
Point Dume Principal Rebecca Johnson said she thinks many parents at her school took a “wait and see” approach to the new fundraising method.
“I think that was the overall idea, to see if the program would work. The Ed Foundation was asking for $365 per student and we’re a very small school that would not make a very big dent in their overall goal,” Johnson said.
Amy Young, president of the Malibu High School Parent- Teacher Association, noted that solicitations for donations roll in from every direction of the local education community.
“I think it’s just a matter of there’s so many choices of where to donate,” Young said.
Before the VSS program was implemented, fundraising in general at Malibu’s public schools was already a competitive field. Elementary school PTAs, the Malibu High Shark Fund, Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) and the Malibu Boys and Girls Club are just a few of the local organizations that ask for annual contributions from parents and community members. Local PTAs and the Shark Fund send out an annual suggested contribution estimate ranging from $1,200 to $3,000 per student. AMPS officials are also running an ongoing campaign to raise $2 million to fund the possible formation of an independent Malibu school district.
“We’re all trying to get money from parents and businesses,” said Wendy Sidley, the Ed Foundation board president. “The PTAs are competing, the Shark Fund’s competing. Unfortunately, it’s kind of the nature of the beast.”
For Patel, the final results translated into a lack of understanding.
“I will admit it was disappointing to see Malibu’s participation in this...I think next year we’ll see increased participation from Malibu because they’ll understand the value of it,” he said.