SMMUSD School Board Faces Major Fundraising Vote This Tuesday

Monday, 28 Nov 2011, 12:58:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Brownie and candy fundraisers spearheaded by the local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to fund pads on football players, and literature books in English class have been commonplace for a long time.

Yet, this week, the rules governing school fundraisers within the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) may be changed by the Board of Education.

Potentially gone are the days where the PTA held fundraisers to pay for field trips to the museum or afterschool tutoring programs.

This Tuesday, Nov. 29, the school board will hold a special meeting at district headquarters to vote on a centralized fundraiser system severely limiting the PTA to solicit monies for school assemblies and basic academic supplies.

The announcement of the special meeting and vote was made at the most recent school board meeting, where concerned parents and citizens filled the SMMUSD meeting room and spoke to members for nearly four hours.

There was a smorgasbord of perspectives shared by the speakers, none of which gave board members an indication of consensus within the community. Accordingly, whichever direction board members go at next week’s vote it’s sure to draw both cheers and jeers.

At the heart of the vote is a proposed district-wide system managing funds raised for various educational programs and related staff. Today, each school’s respective PTA has oversight of how it divvies up its funds amongst educational programs, associated staff, academic supplies, and assemblies.

By centralizing fundraising campaigns for the district’s schools, backers say the new system, if approved and implemented, intends to equally distribute monetary resources across the board. Under current practice, certain schools outpace others in fundraising capacity, directly affecting additional educational programs and staffing support offered to students.

The new system will also address a serious concern board members have with current PTA-backed fundraising practices: parents may have substantive say in staffing decisions.

According to the board, under the new system, the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation would manage major fundraisers aiming to finance a staff position.

If approved, the new system will not be fully implemented until the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year. Prior to that, an advisory committee would be formed within the next few weeks.

In terms of how the funds would be distributed, elementary schools would receive money first, followed by secondary schools should any money be left over, according to the board.

Once the advisory committee is formed, its members will begin ironing out specific details of how the new system will take effect.

Such a game plan was problematic to a large bloc of people, as many speakers at last week’s SMMUSD meeting hoped board members would first devise a specific plan before moving forward with a vote.

Still, others felt the new system had to be instilled as soon as possible in order to level the playing field amongst the district schools. Meanwhile, the new system’s proponents were not at all convinced the proposed model would be effective.

Some pondered how corporate donations would be adversely affected under the new system, while others believed public schools would suffer even more should the current course be altered as large individual donors may choose to send their children to private school.

Ultimately, with the diversity of concerns laid in front of it, the SMMUSD board expects to make a decision on Nov. 29.

Follow The Mirror this week for complete coverage of the vote and additional insight of the proposed fundraising model.

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