Fundraising may not prevent Millbrae school cuts

Despite a decision to move forward with a fundraising plan to restore much-needed funds, Millbrae School District officials are saying it still might not be enough to guard against layoffs this fall.

The district is leaving it up to individual schools to determine where and how cuts should be made at their schools, after more information comes in on how much funding will be available from the state.

Following the advice of a district advisory committee that included parents, the district plans to form an education foundation, the sole purpose of which would be to raise money for the cash-strapped district. Forming a foundation was one aspect of a three-pronged approach to restoring $1.8 million in cuts made districtwide during the last few years, which also included selling the former Millbrae School site and passing a citywide parcel tax.

With the May failure of Measure R, a parcel tax that would have helped restore these cuts, the district jumped into overdrive and attempted to gain solid support for an education foundation before discussing the 2007-08 budget Wednesday night. The idea was well received at a meeting last week, according to both Superintendent Karen Philip and Spring Valley Elementary School PTA member Frank Barbaro.

Philip said the five campuses are now charged with determining, according to their individual site plans, what their top priorities are. They’ll then be charged with matching those priorities against available categorical funding from the state — funds that have specific uses such as salaries for instructional aides — and determining where cuts should be made.

The district’s general fund no longer pays for instructional aides, found mostly in the four elementary schools, which are completely funded by state categorical monies.

The amount of categorical funding per campus is calculated on a per-student basis and it varies year-to-year. But district figures show that each campus received between $32,000 and $47,000 annually.

“Had the parcel tax passed, the district would have taken back some of the control over funding for these services,” Philip said. “Now the district can’t do that.”

Though there was some support for an education foundation, it would take months before the organization was up and running, Philip said. The district advisory committee also recommended that the foundation restore some of the cuts, not all.

“It would be very difficult for a foundation to raise $1.8 million,” Philip said.

tramroop@examiner.com


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