The Board of Education will officially vote Tuesday on Superintendent Sandra Lyon's proposal to prohibit school PTAs in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District from raising money to hire personnel. The vote is a formality because . *
Under the policy, school PTAs would not be allowed to hire personnel such as reading specialists and teacher aides (PTAs already cannot hire teachers) and to support programs and services eliminated due to SMMUSD budget cuts. The Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation would be placed in charge of these efforts. It would also be the only entity that could receive corporate gifts of $2,500 or more.
Details of the policy have not been determined. After the board approves the basic plan, a committee will be formed to establish a specific policy, which must go before the school board for the final OK. However, Lyon wants the corporate gift feature to go into effect immediately for elementary schools.
The SMMUSD and the Education Foundation will also draft and sign a Memorandum of Understanding to formalize the foundation's role under the policy.
The purpose of the policy, advocates say, is to address what they see as an imbalance in educational opportunities among the various schools in the SMMUSD. Some schools are able to raise more money than others, and therefore can provide more programs for the students.
In one extreme example, SMMUSD statistics show that in Malibu plans to spend $1,096 per student this school year on instructional personnel through money raised from the PTA, while McKinley Elementary School in Santa Monica will spend $65 per student.
"It is almost laughable to call this a public school system," a McKinley parent told the school board at the Nov. 17 hearing on the proposed policy.
Opponents say the plan would reduce district fundraising overall because fewer people would want to contribute if the money were not going to their children's schools. Also, they say it would kill programs dependent on PTA funding. A better plan, they say, would be for the wealthier schools to assist the other schools with improving their fundraising.
"[Parents] will simply stop giving," said Charlene Underhill Miller, a parent at in Malibu, at a school board hearing earlier this month at . "So then what we end up doing is reducing the disparity by merely reducing the programs at the schools where fundraising is more active and successful. We lower the bar rather than raise the bar."
Many people also say the Education Foundation is not capable of raising the large amount of money needed to keep the SMMUSD and its programs healthy.
Director Linda Gross told the Santa Monica Daily Press recently that the organization could raise $6 million to $8 million per year. There is significant skepticism how this is possible since the Education Foundation has never raised anywhere near that amount.
Also, many people object to what they consider to be a policy that was put together quickly with little research. Lyon admitted at the Nov. 17 hearing that more research needs to be done. She also said she has not done any outreach with parents about the policy, but plans to do it later.
The meeting on Tuesday will take place at 6 p.m. at Lincoln Middle School, at 1501 California Ave. in Santa Monica.
*Board member Ralph Mechur has not sat through any of the policy hearings and will not vote on the measure because his life partner is Linda Gross, the director of the Education Foundation.