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SMMUSD School Board Votes 6-0 To Change Fundraising Plan:

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education unanimously approved a controversial district-wide fundraising concept Tuesday night during a special meeting held at Lincoln Middle School.

The vote diminishes the role local Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) play in fundraising activities for academic and extracurricular activities.

The 6-0 vote disallows PTAs from raising money to pay district personnel salaries or fund school programs and services. This impacts those affected by recent state budget cuts.

SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon said the non-centralized fundraising system practiced by respective PTAs created “great inequities across the district” and “a climate in which the instruction and instructional experiences students receive and the conditions in which teachers work are altered by the amount of money individual PTAs can raise.”

In light of Tuesday’s vote, the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation was designated as the oversight entity to manage the centralized fundraising system. The non-profit organization will assume its responsibilities at some point before the summer of 2014.

With a Power Point presentation touching upon the basics of the districts new plans for a centralized fundraising system, board members believe they have put SMMUSD on track for a more democratic distribution of monies raised for an array of school programs, both academic and extracurricular.

The Mission Statement written at the outset of the Power Point presentation stated “Extraordinary achievement for all while simultaneously closing the achievement gap.”

One point stated was the district’s vision “to know that all students in our district have access to the equity in programs and educational experiences, regardless of which schools they attend.”

Even more, proponents have argued school districts across the country are establishing centralized fundraising systems “because of the issue of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’”

Prior to the Nov. 29 vote, each school’s respective PTA had oversight of how it divvied funds amongst educational programs, associated staff, academic supplies, and assemblies.

However, the school board sought a centralizing fundraising campaign for the districts schools, with the new system intending to distribute monetary resources equally across SMMUSD. Under the longstanding PTA fundraising model, certain schools outpace others in fundraising capacity, directly affecting additional educational programs and staffing support offered to students.

The new system would also address a serious concern board members have with current PTA-backed fundraising practices: parents may have substantive say in staffing decisions.

Local PTAs raised about $4 million in 2009-2010, according to SMMUSD data.

The district has taken issue with PTA fundraisers for two reasons: inequity of services and programs delivered, and the need of the PTA to focus on “fundraising to the detriment of its core mission to provide information, advocacy and support to children and families.”

Proponents of a centralized system have argued consolidated fundraising allows for a more “community-based fundraising effort” and “provides a consistent revenue stream for the district in the future.”

Centralized fundraising could also help the district better target large corporate donors and assist the PTAs focus on raising money for specific programs instead of seeking dollars to help pay salaries.

Some opponents believed there was nothing wrong with the local PTA approach to soliciting funds for their respective schools or that the school board would not be able to responsibly manage a centralized fundraiser system.

Others were skeptical about the board’s vote on Tuesday, feeling the move was premature and more time was needed to flesh out specific details of how a centralized fundraising system would work before taking an official action on the matter.

The new system won’t be fully implemented until the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year, allowing the board to work on developing how the new system will work.

Board member Ralph Mechur did not attend the special meeting.

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