Facing ongoing Los Altos School District budget cuts, Los Altos Education Foundation directors are gathering information from district officials and parent groups to assess the most urgent needs, before determining what their 2010-2011 grant will fund.
“Parents are really attuned to the educational process in Los Altos,” said foundation Vice President Kristine Bardman. “They really care about what is going on and are willing to contribute to the educational process through donations to the foundation and PTAs and through their time volunteering.”
The foundation recently completed its annual parent survey. More than 1,000 parents from the nine schools responded.
Overwhelmingly, parents are positive about the contribution the Los Altos Education Foundation makes in their children’s education, and they value where their donations are spent, Bardman said.
Executive Director Shobana Gubbi said the foundation distributed the survey before the current discussions on cutbacks began. When asked where they would spend additional funds if available, parents selected small class sizes.
Confronting a potential deficit of approximately $3 million for the 2010-2011 school year, district trustees have included increasing class sizes as one option in their efforts to balance the budget.
The foundation has not yet decided which programs their grant will fund in the fall, said President Glenn Goldberg.
“We come up with our grant based on what the district needs, what the schools need and what the parents need,” Bardman said. “This year it will be a slightly different process. It is going to take longer. We will need all the information to make the best, well-educated decision we can.”
Bardman said she thinks the foundation needs to hear the Governor’s May Revise of the budget before deciding on what to fund in next year’s grant.
Goldberg said he has observed a shift in the community’s thought process on the budget cuts.
“The last few years I have noticed the sophistication people have about this situation is growing,” he said. “I think people have recognized we have run out of interesting budget tricks to get through all this. Cuts have to be made.”
In the past, the community might have expressed anger at the state or banks or the economy as a result of the budget cuts, Goldberg said.
“We need to start looking at (the budget) as a local control issue,” he said. “The truth is, most of the money for our schools comes from our local sources. Basically we have to make some decisions about what we want our schools to look like.”
The foundation and the local school PTAs will raise approximately $4 million at the conclusion of this school year, approximately 9 percent of the district budget. The parcel tax accounts for approximately $8 million a year. Combined, the local community directly provides approximately 30 percent of the district budget.
“Getting angry is no longer part of the solution,” Goldberg said. “The solution is deciding what is the quality of education we want to have for children of Los Altos and figuring out as a community how we are going to deliver that.”
The foundation has raised 90 percent of its targeted goal for the school year, $1.81 million. It currently funds smaller K-6 class sizes, the fine arts program, instrumental music, the art docent program, physical education, hands-on science and technology specialists.
Gubbi said the foundation would ask the community for $1.81 million again next year. She said she is not worried about parents feeling “tapped out.”
“Our community is tremendous,” Gubbi said. “Our community is so supportive of education.”
The Los Altos Education Foundation participation rate – the percentage of district families that make a donation to the foundation each year – ranks near the top among the more than 600 educational foundations in the state.
For more information, visit www.laefonline.org.