Sat04192014

News

Parents reaffirm commitment to Los Altos Educational Foundation

Photo Town Crier File Photo The Los Altos Educational Foundation historically has underwritten many enrichment programs and supported small class sizes.

Despite difficult economic times and to offset cuts to education, 94 percent of Los Altos School District parents polled said they give to the Los Altos Educational Foundation annually.

The foundation recently completed its annual parent survey, which helps define its proposed grant to the school district.

Facing a $4.5 million deficit, district officials said they might need to cut several Los Altos Educational Foundation-supported programs.

There are many variables (including a proposed parcel tax) that affect the educational foundation’s funding targets. The worse-case district scenario would cut into the music and arts program for fourth- through sixth-graders, physical education for first- through sixth-graders and library programs across the board, and could require larger class sizes and/or combination classes – resources currently supported by funds from the Los Altos Educational Foundation.

“The most important thing for parents to know is that the foundation’s mission and advocacy on their behalf will remain unchanged in the face of district budget challenges,” said Joe Seither, foundation board member. “Since 1982, the foundation has represented parents and channeled their private donations to the district, and we don’t see this changing next year. In fact, school budget challenges are why the Los Altos Educational Foundation exists.”

Because funding reductions could require the district to implement a bare-bones program, the foundation’s parent survey is a guide to which programs parents consider most important when it comes to their students’ education.

The survey prompted 1,927 responses, 60 percent more than the previous year. Seither said the responses were representative across school and grade demographics.

The results report that parents understand that the district depends on their financial support. There was no indication of a change in attitudes, even though the foundation raised its annual request per student to $1,000 from $800 last year.

Although parents understand they must lead the community in providing financial support for schools, they are extended already and would like to see greater assistance from the broader district, he said.

The survey revealed that the majority of parents favor class-size reductions for kindergartners through third-graders and junior high students (historically, the foundation has not funded small class sizes for fourth through sixth grades), and support libraries in elementary schools and physical education for fourth- through sixth-graders.

The survey queried parents about combination classes, a potential money-saving change. Seither said that many parents want to know more about the option before forming an opinion.

Many parents responded that they did not notice an educational impact from reducing the school year by three days last year.

The responses indicated increased sentiment for the school board to take action to balance revenues and expenses, Seither said. Parents want the school board to consider cost-cutting ideas other than eliminating parent-funded programs.

“No one wants to pay more,” one parent responded. “But our kids’ education is nothing to skimp on – we’ll do what we have to do.”

Foundation officials are doing their part by waiting until the district outlines the program based on any possible additional revenue streams.

According to Seither, the foundation will finalize the total amount of the grant in May or June and list the specific programs funded following district approval of the final educational program.

“This year we’re going to do all we can to support the district, even if the program lineup changes,” Seither said. “The important thing is that we raise donations to continue programs that parents care about and the district determines will (provide) the best, well-balanced educational program we can afford.”

For more information, visit www.laefonline.net.

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