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Santa Monica-Malibu School Board to Review Fundraising Program

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By Lookout Staff

April 15, 2015 -- School Board members are scheduled this week to review the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s centralized fundraising program. 

This year the program, Vision for Student Success, is funding literacy coaches at elementary schools, instructional assistants, additional staff at secondary schools, visual arts programs in K-5 classrooms and enrichment and training grants, according to a district staff report.

School Board members will review the report at their meeting Thursday at the district’s office, 1651 16 St., at 4:30 p.m.

Board members in 2011 approved the Vision for Student Success program to address staffing and professional inequities in the district’s 16 schools. The Board designated the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (SMMEF) as the exclusive group in charge of fundraising for the program.

According the terms of the partnership between the district and the foundation, programs funded by Vision for Student Success must be evaluated every year “to inform the Board of the programs’ effectiveness on student learning.”

School Board members also discuss options for next year, including funding the programs.

“The money needed to continue these programs at their current level is $4 million for the 2015-16 school year,” the report said. “At this junction, SMMEF ahs raised approximately half of the necessary funds.”

The report noted that last school year Board members voted to use $800,000 in one-time funds to keep Vision for Student Success programs in place.
School Board members changed the district’s fundraising policies in November 2011, after critics said the rules resulted in unequal educational opportunities for students.("Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Approves Controversial Gift Policy," December 1, 2011).

Before the change, school PTAs were allowed to raise money for individual schools. Critics said the police created a major inequality among the district's schools.

Schools with better fundraising skills or a wealthier fundraising base were able to collect more donations and use the money to hire teacher’s assistants, equipment and other “premium programs.”

Now donations can only be made directly to the school district through the SMMEF. The money is then distributed equally among the district’s schools via its Vision for Student Success program.

Officials call Vision for Student Success “a comprehensive set of programs designed to improve student achievement and success.”

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