SMMUSD Approves Policy to Centralize Fundraising and Limit PTA Authority
• Decision Adds Fuel to Secession Debate
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
After several hours of public comment and discussion, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education approved a plan to centralize fundraising and transfer authority to the Santa Monica Malibu Education Foundation, restricting individual district school PTAs from raising funds to pay for programs or personnel.
The special meeting last Tuesday at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica concluded well after midnight.
The plan was endorsed 6-0 by the board members present. Boardmember Ralph Mecher, whose life partner is the executive director of the Ed Foundation, recused himself from the meeting and from all previous discussions of the plan.
The board approved the policy with some minor changes. The text of the resolution stated: "To ensure program parity and equity across all schools and students in the district, the board is establishing a centralized and collaborative fundraising model that will enable the district to provide equity in program and personnel in all district schools while preserving flexibility at each school. This model will be implemented in phases. The board designates the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation as the central fundraising entity for the School District. Once this centralized model is implemented, the Education Foundation will be the only fundraising entity to raise funds for the district to use to pay for personnel and professional development."
"The Superintendent will create an Advisory Committee that will study best practices and propose an implementation plan for this policy. The committee will work to devise a plan that actualizes the board's goal of achieving program parity and equity for all schools and students in the district by increasing programming and resources at underserved schools while preserving and sustaining programs of excellence that are important to a school community's learning goals. Consideration of "best practices" should inform evaluation of existing programs and development of a "premium program" that the district will endeavor, through centralized fundraising, to offer at all schools. In addition, the Advisory Committee is tasked with developing a proposal for centralizing certain donations from the business/corporate community.
The policy will be implemented in all district elementary schools beginning July 1, 2013.
Malibu parents opposed to the plan campaigned up to the eleventh hour ahead of the special board of education meeting on the issue in Santa Monica on Tuesday, despite the consensus that the board of education would unanimously support the fundraising changes.
A petition launched on Nov. 17 pledging the support of "Malibu parents, students, community members and businesses to encourage the development of a reasonable alternative SMMUSD Districtwide Fundraising Plan," received more than 400 signatures.
Phone calls, emails and formal information sessions at school auditoriums have encouraged action on the measure that many Malibu parents say they see as a district grab for Malibu funding. Websites and organizations opposing the proposal have appeared. Many plan critics have stated that their only recourse is to seek a separate school district.
Many who favored the policy change have stated that they view it as a civil rights issue.