In an effort to offset potential state budget cuts, Los Alamitos school officials are asking parents to donate $351 per child.
In letters sent last week, school district Superintendent Sherry Kropp and Los Alamitos Educational Foundation President Tom Stretz told families the money would be used to reduce class sizes for the 2011-12 school year.
This isn't the first time has passed the hat, but the amount being requested is drastically higher than previous campaigns, which began two years ago with a pitch for about $100 per child.
Over the past three years, the state has sliced $18.5 million—about 20 percent—from the district’s operation budget, officials said. Ideally, the average funding per pupil should be $6,604 per year, but it's now at $5,330.
Under the new state budget, the district could face additional cuts of $351 per student, which adds up to $3.3 million and could translate into more crowded classes, officials said.
Some parents, such as Bret Colson, are on the fence about whether to contribute. Colson, who has two children in the district, said he admires and supports Los Alamitos schools, but can't participate in every fundraiser.
"From the first day of school, there are a series of fundraisers such as selling wrapping paper and cookie dough; it gets to the point where [friends] are scared to see us coming," Colson said. "We don’t participate in every fundraiser because we can't. We have to pick and choose.”
Marni Rice, who has two children at Hopkinson Elementary, said she won't contribute because she already donates $3,000 to $5,000 a year to her school.
“I’m extremely involved in my school and I’m constantly supplying and donating,” Rice said. “I have to draw the line somewhere.”
But Rice said she knows other parents who will donate, depending on their financial situation.
School officials realize their request is ambitious. A similar class-size reduction campaign two years ago collected $70,000, and last year's drive hauled in $125,000, according to the Los Alamitos Educational Foundation.
This year, the district would like to close a $3.3-million gap.
“If you can make a donation in any amount, we urge you to do so—every dollar impacts learning!” the campaign letter states.
According to Andrew Pulver, assistant superintendent of human resources, the money will be used to drive down class sizes across all grade levels. The focus, he said, would be to shrink language arts and math classes by adding more classes.
Last year’s effort helped to pay for a zero period geometry class for high school students and hire intervention teachers.
Currently, the district’s student-to-teacher ratio in grades 4 through 6 and secondary levels is about 37 to 1. Ideally, Pulver said, the district would lower that to around 33 to 1.
At the K-3 level, the staffing ratio is 24 to 1; the ideal number is 20 to 1, Pulver said.
“Those were the staffing ratios that we had in the past, before we had a tough budget,” Pulver said.
Parent Rice questioned whether enough money would be raised to really make a difference. "If everyone doesn’t send the money and they don’t raise all the funds, then there won’t be a reduction in class size for everyone.”
Historically, local families, businesses and organizations have been generous to the school district. In June, the Board of Education approved year-to-date donations of $668,093, although that total also included equipment donations.
Tax-deductible donations to the class size reduction campaign can be made via the Los Alamitos Educational Foundation website in lump sums or monthly installments.