SMMUSD HDQTRS — Using lemonade stands and Hollywood stars, “Save Our Schools,” the grassroots fundraising effort to help offset budget cuts to public education, has secured enough cash to pay for three elementary school teachers, a counselor, a librarian and one music instructor, according to the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation.

Officials with the foundation, which is coordinating the campaign, said Monday Save our Schools raised a total of $565,649.81 as of July 9 and more donations are expected to come in before the Aug. 15 deadline. The campaign has hooked up with local businesses, including restaurants, as well as actors Ed Harris and Amy Madigan to raise awareness about the need for more funding. Some students have also set up “Lemon-aid” stands around town to collect donations.

The school board recently sent out pink slips to 58 teachers and cut $7.1 million from its budget for the coming school year. District officials said the amount of money local public schools receive from the state has decreased by $30 million over the last three years.

“The school funding crisis has brought together residents from all walks of life, many of whom don’t have kids in local schools,” said Linda Gross, executive director of the education foundation. “People understand that quality public education is not only the key to our children’s future, but to the future of our community as well.”

The foundation initiated the grassroots campaign following the narrow defeat of Measure A in May. The measure called for an “emergency” tax of $198 per parcel that would have generated $5.8 million a year for the district. The measure failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed for approval.

The campaign’s goal is to raise enough money to provide full funding for first grade class size reduction, lower secondary school class size, and restore music, library and counseling programs, Gross said.

The City Council is expected tonight to give $50,000 to the campaign.

Gross said the foundation is asking for $25,000 guaranteed, while the remainder would be in the form of a matching grant.

Those who donate have the option of designating their funds to one of three “buckets”; donors can chose elementary class size, counselors and secondary class size and music and libraries. As of Monday, the elementary bucket had the most money with $281,727. It was followed by music and libraries with $138,107. The counselors and secondary school class size bucket was third with $136,756. Gross said the ultimate goal is to raise $5.7 million, but “we just want to raise as much as we can.”

The school board will place teachers and other staff at school sites with the most need, school officials said.

Upcoming fundraising events include concerts, movie screenings, a leadership recognition event, and a community-wide Save Our Schools beach party to thank the community and volunteers, Gross said.

For ongoing information on the Save Our Schools campaign and upcoming events, visit www.smmef.org.

kevinh@smdp.com

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