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Groups crucial in helping to fund school activities

In weak economy, support of PTAs, educational foundation is more important than ever, officials say.

August 25, 2010|Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com

Like every other school district, La Cañada Unified School District has been hammered by reductions in government funding. But it has had the luxury of being able to rely on two local organizations to help supplant those reductions in funding.

The La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation has donated more than $16 million to the district in its 32-year existence and the PTAs are seeing an increased fundraising role themselves.

"The parents and families are very supportive in La Cañada," said Susan Dodge, president of the La Cañada PTA Council. "We have a good team going forward and need to keep up the hard work in this district."

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The 2010-11 academic year is yet another one in which all California school districts will be figuratively biting their nails, waiting for legislators to finalize the state budget.

"We are looking forward to having another great year, managing as best we can, given the impacted financial situation," said Scott Tracy, vice president of the La Cañada school board. "We just got to keep doing what we're doing."

La Cañada Unified School District officials project a $1.86 million budget shortfall in the 2010-11 school year but the officials won't know exactly what they are dealing with until they receive the state budget, school board President Jeanne Broberg said.

"The economy is terrible, but that's a stronger reason for people to continue supporting the foundation," said Valerie Aenlle-Rocha, foundation president. "The district isn't getting as much money as [it] used to. The picture from Sacramento is getting worse and worse."

This year, the foundation is hoping to cut a check to La Cañada Unified for a sum even larger than the $1.08 million it donated last year.

That money is important because the district benefits from the student counselors and elementary school programs such as art, drama and music that are made possible by the foundation's donation.

"A lot of districts have gotten rid of [elementary fine-arts programs] because they can't support them, but we continue," Aenlle-Rocha said.

Over the past few years, local PTAs have seen their role as fundraisers increase as LCUSD's state-government funding is reduced.

"We do a lot of fundraising now because we want to provide as many programs as we can for students," said Lisa Dick, Paradise Canyon Elementary PTA president. "We are doing our best to provide the best extracurricular programs possible."

It's just how any PTA operates, Dodge said.

"It runs like a fine-tuned engine," Dodge said. "The PTAs generate a lot of funds for the school so they can keep their programs going."

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