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Apodaca: District needs to discuss pooled funding

March 16, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

"Everyone who writes about this issue always includes the fears that parents have about the idea of transitioning from site-based to district-wide fundraising — fears that parents won't give as much 'if they aren't giving to their own schools,'" Fanali wrote in an e-mail.

"However, what these articles almost always fail to mention is that there is no evidence of those fears becoming reality."

According to Fanali, districts that have adopted a unified fundraising approach, which also include those in Palo Alto, Manhattan Beach, Irvine and Palos Verdes, all faced pushback from some parents who threatened to withdraw their students or withhold donations.

Neither reaction came to pass, she maintained, and the pooled systems are now running smoothly and successfully.

"Parents don't care who they write a check to — they care about what that money pays for," she wrote. "And if a district policy is to pay for staff [programs] through centralized fundraising, then that's how parents contribute."

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Would a pooled fundraising system be a workable approach for Newport-Mesa?

Maybe, maybe not. But the question is worth asking, and the issue deserves examination. At the very least, the dire economic straits of our schools require we keep open minds, and employ abundant resourcefulness and creativity.

For the woeful reality of public education today is that we are on the brink of epic failure. Throughout the state, school districts are teetering toward ruin, and a system-wide collapse isn't unthinkable.

At the risk of devolving into broken-recordness, the crux of the problem can't be repeated too often or loudly: California schools are a mess, thanks to decades of mind-bogglingly bad policy decisions by politicians and voters.

Even the districts that remain afloat, like Newport-Mesa, have been forced to throw off considerable weight to keep from sinking. Items once considered basic attributes of public education — art, after-school programs, gifted-student education, library services, the list goes on — are now often considered unaffordable luxuries.

Three competing tax measures to restore some school funding, one by Gov. Jerry Brown, are headed for the November ballot. But even if they don't cancel each other out, these proposals offer limited, temporary fixes only. A long-term solution is nowhere in sight.

So what's certain is that private fundraising will continue to be a relied-upon method of backdoor financing for schools, not just for extras, but also for essentials. And as long as that's the case, the glaring discrepancies in donations from school to school will hold even greater significance.

PATRICE APODACA is a Newport-Mesa public school parent and former Los Angeles Times staff writer. She is also a regular contributor to Orange Coast magazine. She lives in Newport Beach.

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