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Good news for schools, but need is still real

June 08, 2011|By Craig Mazin

At last, some good news!

When it came to public-school funding, this year was one of the most difficult our community has ever endured. From the beginning of the school year, when families were confronted with higher class sizes and the loss of teaching aides, to the barrage of gloomy forecasts from Sacramento, it seems like all I’ve been saying for nine months is “we’re in trouble.”

Well, we are still in trouble, but I’m happy to report that a few things have finally broken our way.

The biggest news comes from Sacramento. All year long, every public school district in the state has been bracing for draconian cuts — at least $619 per student. Even worse, that number was on top of the cuts we’ve already suffered since 2007-2008. That $619 number was the one that spurred the LCUSD Task Force to sound the alarm.

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I wish I could tell you we aren’t going to suffer cuts. Sadly, and as predicted, we will. However, state tax revenue was surprisingly higher than expected. Public school districts like ours are now being told to budget for cuts of “only” $330 per student.

What does this mean for us? The Task Force has widely publicized a community donation target of $6 million to get us back to ’07-’08. The “pulled punch” from Sacramento reduces our need by $1.2 million.

And what’s the state of the campaign?

More good news.

First, as of May 15, the community has donated $1,575,000 to the La Cañada Educational Foundation. Yes, it’s less than we had hoped for, but let’s not ignore this startling accomplishment: Our community raised more for our school this year than it ever has before.

Second, we’ve had tremendous participation. For instance, 85% of La Cañada Elementary families donated something to the Foundation, and its third-grade set the gold standard with 93% participation. We don’t have all of the final statistics yet, but we’ve seen real improvement. We set out to change the donation culture in this community, and that’s happened.

Third, and best of all, the LCUSD now believes we have enough to “hold the line” on services for next year.

Through a combination of the extra funds we’ve raised, plus real concessions made by our teachers and staff, the district is now saying it can keep class sizes right where they are for 2011-2012.

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