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School Board Separates Santa Monica, Malibu Fundraising Efforts


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(This article has been edited to clarify the role of Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) in fundraising efforts.).

July 6, 2018 -- The School Board last Thursday changed a controversial fundraising policy that saw donations from Malibu parents plummet and led in large part to the potential split of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

Approved on a 5 - 0 vote, the new policy replaces a centralized model approved in 2011 that distributed funds raised by the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (SMMEF) for programs, additional staff and professional development to schools districtwide.

Under the new policy, the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation will be responsible only for raising money for Santa Monica schools.

Starting this month, a Malibu-based nonprofit entity is responsible for fundraising for Malibu schools.

Each fundraising group will work with a separate Superintendent's Advisory Committee composed of representatives from all the schools in their respective community, District officials said.

Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati predicted the change -- which takes effect for funds raised for the 2019-2020 fiscal year -- will benefit the entire District.

"I believe this change will lead to even stronger support for our schools in both communities," Drati said in a statement issued after Thursday's vote.

"Our district continues its firm commitment to programmatic equity across our schools," he said.

The money raised will help fund programs recommended by the superintendent and staff with collaboration from the Advisory Committees pending the approval of the School Board

If more money is raised than needed to fund the approved program, the surplus "may be placed in an endowment," Drati said.

The money could be "rolled over to help cover the following year’s program costs, or become part of a bigger plan to address 'aspirational' programs not yet funded or approved," Drati said.

Officials of the newly named Santa Monica Education Foundation shared Drati's optimism in the policy.

"In the discussions leading up to this change, equity was a key focus," said Linda Greenberg, the Foundation's executive director.

"I believe this change will lead to even stronger support for our schools in both Santa Monica and Malibu."

Contributions from Malibu parents have been plummeting since the School Board approved its district-wide fundraising policy in November 2011 ("Santa Monica - Malibu School Board Approves Controversial Gift Policy," December 1, 2011).

The policy barred PTAs from raising money to pay for teachers or other personnel as well as “premium programs” at specific schools.

Instead, the board asked a centralized organization to pool the money it then redistributes to all district schools.

During the past five years, Santa Monica parents contributed 95 percent of the money raised, according to a district report.

In 2016, one school board member attributed the large fundraising discrepancy between the two cities to an organized boycott in Malibu ("Santa Monica School Board Member Says Malibu Parents Boycotting Education Foundation," May 16, 2016).

As was the case when the controversial gift policy was approved seven and a half years ago, Thursday's vote was unanimous.

Boardmember Ralph Mechur recused himself and Boardmember Craig Foster, the only Malibu resident on the Board, was absent.


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