SMMUSD HDQTRS — In just under two months the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation has raised about a third of the money district officials believe is needed to boost reading instruction and staff training and reduce class sizes in local schools, officials with the nonprofit said.

The foundation has raised $1.2 million of its $4 million annual goal, Linda Greenberg Gross, executive director of the foundation, said Monday.

She said the deadline to raise the money is January 2014. Greenberg Gross said the foundation couldn’t start fundraising until it had the vision for student success goals, which were approved by the Board of Education at the end of May.

“We have a very engaged and wonderful community that wants to participate in this,” Greenberg Gross said. “While we would have loved to start a year ago, we just got the material and the plan. We are anticipating this fall to be the kickoff.”

The money is expected to be used to bolster student learning across the board while giving schools the ability to target teacher training dollars where they’re most needed. The plan represents a final step in a nearly two-year process to overhaul a long-standing practice in which boosters paid for special classes and extra instruction for schools, leaving a disparity between schools with richer parents and those located in lower-income neighborhoods in the district.

The Board of Education voted in November of 2011 to take the power to raise money for staff costs — like arts classes or teacher training — out of the hands of parents and make it the charge of the Education Foundation, while allowing parents to pay for “stuff” like supplies or field trips.

A group of over 40 parents, district officials and other interested parties got together over the course of months to determine how the centralized funding, once attained, would be spent.

The plan takes much of the focus away from “extras” and puts it squarely behind support for fundamentals like reading and training for teachers, something that has suffered as millions left the budget from state cuts.

Greenberg Gross said most of the money is going to come from individuals, with a portion coming from foundations and corporations.

Craig Foster, president of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools, which criticized the new fundraising model, said the foundation has “been running as hard as they can to try to put together a proper fundraising effort.”

“My understanding is to hit the fall fundraising season hard,” he said. “We’ll see what happens in the fall, but we are certainly all keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best.”

 

ameera@smdp.com