The cost of a free education

In recent years, Malibu parents of children in elementary grades have grown accustomed to being asked for contributions of $300 per child by the PTA. This fall, the ante is up.

Local PTAs have stepped up fund-raising efforts to combat a multimillion dollar budget shortfall at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Letters to parents are inviting $500 and $550 per student. They’re hoping for more.

According to Webster PTA Co-President Chet Horn, statistics show 50 percent to 60 percent of Webster families contribute to the direct donation drive. It’s not much better elsewhere in town, although a few large donors at Point Dume Marine Science have contributed start-up monies for programs, equipment and furniture at the new campus.

This time around, PTA leaders are looking for full participation, offering installment plans with payments as little as $30 per month. At Webster, the largest of the three schools, projections of direct donations combined with additional fund-raisers and local business sponsorships (Adopt-a-Class) may not cover the budget. The list of what parents pay for is staggering.

At two or more Malibu campuses, PTAs fund in whole or in part: part-time classroom aides; part-time instructional aides in art, vocal music, science, technology and bilingual education; art supplies; assemblies; cafeteria programs; computer hardware and software; copier, photocopy supplies and paper; counseling and family support services; disaster preparedness, traffic and safety supplies; family nights; field trips; fundraising costs; Gardening Angels program; Health Champions profiles and screenings; hospitality; instructional materials; kindergarten orientation; landscaping materials and campus beautification; library books; music resources; newsletters; nurse’s office supplies; parent education lectures; physical education equipment; PTA insurance; science curriculum development and materials.

What does it all cost? Last year, Webster spent about $181,000. The minimum budget is currently $187,900. At $103,500 per year, classroom aides are the top line-item, followed by instructional salaries and technology needs. The campus has about 455 students in 20 rooms, four of which contain split-grade classes.

Juan Cabrillo’s budget has increased slightly, despite the fact that fewer students are enrolled this year. PTA Co-President Linda Pieper attributes the growth to a brand new science program at the school. PTA expenditures amounted to $105,622 in 1998-99. The current budget is $115,030. Classroom aides, photocopy expenses and science curriculum are the most costly programs. Cabrillo has about 375 students in 16 rooms, five of which contain split-grade classes.

Point Dume Marine Science opened four years ago as a satellite of Cabrillo. Its PTA has been in existence three years. About $140,000 was spent last year. The bare-bones budget is $125,000; a more realistic second tier is at $185,000. Aides top the list at $55,000, followed by instructional salaries, $22,000 in computer needs and a copier at $18,000. PDMS has about 290 students in 13 classrooms, one of which is a split-grade.

Neighboring PTAs in Oxnard, Las Virgenes and Conejo Valley districts typically budget $65,000 to $110,000 per school year.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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