School board expected to pass controversial fundraising measure

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A centralized fundraising initiative that parents say could hurt Malibu schools was expected to be passed by the school board Tuesday.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

The school district Board of Education (BOE) is expected to approve a plan to centralize fundraising in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, despite outcry from Malibu parents who say the change is basically a transfer of money from Malibu to Santa Monica.

Six of the seven boardmembers expressed support for the measure at its Nov. 17 meeting. The BOE was expected to approve the plan at a special meeting Tuesday this week, after this paper has gone to print. Check The Malibu Times website at www.malibutimes.com for updates on their decision.

The measure, called Districtwide Fundraising, would bar Parent Teacher Associations at individual school sites from raising money to pay for additional staff and programs specific to that school. Corporate gifts of greater than $2,500 would also be prohibited.

Large-scale fundraising instead would be conducted through the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, a nonprofit that has been raising money for the district for 29 years. Those funds would then be distributed equally to schools throughout the district. Individual PTAs could still raise money for educational supplies and other classroom necessities.

Malibu parents say all that will happen is that Malibu people will stop giving or pull their children out of the school district and send them to private schools.

If approved, Superintendent Sandra Lyon would convene an advisory committee by Jan. 2012 to meet with other districts that have switched to the centralized fundraising model for advice on implementation of the policy. The committee would issue recommendations to the BOE by spring 2012. Implementation would begin in fall of 2013.

The policy would only apply at first to elementary schools, excluding secondary schools until current fundraising contracts with PTAs at those sites expire.

The stated goal of districtwide fundraising, according to the district staff report, is “to supplement general funds so that underperforming students have the ability to reach the academic level of their not-at-risk peers.” Lyon has expressed concern that instructional aides and other personnel hired with PTA funds are often brought in without regard to the district’s broader educational direction, who the district then takes on as employees.

The Malibu City Council voted unanimously to explore the formation of an independent Malibu school district at its regular meeting Monday night.