Public Forum: Keep the school funds at home

Letter to the Editor

I read with dismay “Dollars for Malibu Schools” by Wendy Sidley, because, like so much in her letter, its title was completely misleading. Indeed, our public schools have suffered because of our state’s inability to provide adequate funding. We still rank almost at the bottom of the list of states in per pupil state expenditures. She rightly asks parents and community organizations to help meet budget shortfalls in our local public schools but she wants such contributions to go to primarily to the Santa Monica Education Foundation. 

“We are experiencing a shift in fundraising throughout our school district … (beginning in 2014) the Education Foundation will be the only way to provide enrichment that these organizations ( i.e. PTAs) have provided for in the past.” 

What this means is that this is the last year that parents can donate to their students’ local schools and have their donations directly benefit programs at that school. Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, all monies earned by local PTAs through direct fundraising will be turned over to the Santa Monica Education Foundation to be distributed as they see fit. The Education Foundation’s Board of Directors, along with the Board of Education and the Superintendent will create “equitable” distribution of those monies to achieve what they view as “fairness” among all district schools. 

This stupefying attempt at social engineering may signal the twilight of quality education in our district. Wendy Sidley admonishes the Malibu community to “change its mind-set” and participate in the campaign to raise monies for the Education Foundation. Why should any parent write a check for any amount and have absolutely no assurance that his child’s school will ever benefit from it? It is a total fantasy to believe, as the Foundation predicts, that $4 million can be raised annually in this manner when they offer no details as to what type of programs they will deem worthy to fund and how much they plan to give back to Malibu schools to support these “approved” expenditures. 

Judging by past experiences with the school district bureaucracy, Malibu has never received its fair share when one considers its contributions in property taxes and developers fees versus the number of Malibu students educated. 

And lest you think I am just another greedy, grumpy fiscal conservative, it should be stated that for the past six or seven years, every PTA and parent fundraising group in Malibu public schools has been required to send off a check to the Santa Monica-Malibu School District for an amount that represents 15% of the monies that each group has earned during the school year. But that, apparently, has not been enough to achieve “fairness.” To my knowledge no written accounting of those funds and how they have been spent has ever been disseminated as a separate document to the public. 

Why point all this out when this policy has already been approved by the School Board and its enactment is inevitable? Just this. Now, more than ever before we need our own separate Malibu School District. Then the monies earned by our hard-working Malibu parents and businesses can be channeled directly to Malibu schools. Instead of donating “one dollar a day” to the Santa Monica Education Foundation, as Wendy Sidley suggests, send that buck to Craig Foster and his team of volunteers working to create an independent Malibu School District. 

By Diane C. Hines 

Past PTA president, Webster Elementary School 

Past PTA president, Malibu High School 

Past secretary, Santa Monica-Malibu PTA Council