In response to declining state funding and encouragement from parents, the Los Altos Educational Foundation (LAEF) has set its 2010-2011 fundraising goal at a record $2.35 million, an increase of $540,000, nearly 30 percent over last year. The foundation also increased its suggested donation for the first time in four years, from $800 to $1,000 per student.
With LAEF’s increase in support and the Los Altos School District’s budget adjustments, the district could rehire K-6 classroom teachers who received pink slips March 15, assuming no additional cuts in state funding. The board is scheduled to discuss the possibility of preserving the positions at Monday’s board meeting, after press deadline.
The increased LAEF grant could restore 2010-2011 class sizes to current levels at all seven elementary schools and maintain junior high school electives previously slated for cuts next year. LAEF’s 2010-2011 grant will continue to fund art, music, hands-on science and PE.
For 28 years, an annual LAEF grant to the district has funded teachers and staff for educational enrichment programs that the district could not otherwise afford with property and parcel-tax revenues alone. LAEF funding provides approximately $250,000 for every grade.
“For several years now, the school district has had to continually make budget cuts due to declining revenues,” said Kristine Bardman, LAEF vice president, chairwoman of the grant-making committee and district parent. “During this current school year, we are operating with larger class sizes, fewer library hours, a scaled-back music and fine-arts program and no classroom aides. The LAEF board believes it is important for us to do all we can to hold the line at this level for our children until we can pass the parcel tax as a community.”
To determine the size of this year’s grant, LAEF in January conducted a survey of more than 1,000 parents to solicit feedback on programs funded by the foundation. LAEF used the survey results to shape the grant based on what parents said they wanted most for their children. LAEF leadership then sought input on various grant scenarios from the principals, district administration, PTAs and school board.
“We’re all aware of the upheaval in public education in California due to declining state revenues,” said Margot Harrigan, president of the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees. “Our district has struggled through annual declines in state funding to the point where now more than 90 percent of our revenue comes from local sources within our district such as property taxes, parcel taxes and donations. These are difficult times, so LAEF has been a huge help in balancing our budget and protecting the additional staff and programs that parents and kids love.”
In January, the revenue shortfall projected for 2010-2011 was $2.3 million. Glenn Goldberg, president of LAEF and district parent, said teachers agreed to take three unpaid furlough days, PTAs committed additional funds and the district cut expenses.
“Now, we parents need to do our part,” Goldberg said. “If all families give 25 percent more than they did last year, we’ll raise what we’ve promised the district. We are confident that parents will give generously to LAEF to preserve class sizes and maintain enrichment programs. Our goal is to receive a donation from 100 percent of families. Some give more than our suggested amount and some give less, but what’s most important is that we all do what we can.”
Goldberg said LAEF’s monthly payment option has been a big help for families, increasing both the participation rate and the average donation amount.
Jeff Baier, incoming Los Altos School District Superintendent, said LAEF plays a critical role in the district.
“LAEF helps keep us connected to our parents,” Baier said. “The foundation empowers parents to advocate for a superior education for their children and gives them a way to pay for it.”
To donate, visit www.laefonline.org or mail checks to P.O. Box 98, Los Altos 94023.