Alameda Education Foundation considers expanded role
Since 1982, the Alameda Education Foundation has offered programs like after-school enrichment classes for elementary school students, middle school sports and classroom supplies for teachers. But with the failure of the Measure E school parcel tax to secure a winning supermajority and Alameda Unified’s subsequent $7.2 million in cuts for next year, the foundation’s leaders may seek to expand their efforts to aid local schools.
“Historically, AEF has provided programming that enhanced the quality of public education for Alameda school children. Measure E’s defeat means our role will be expanding – just how much we don’t yet know – but our goal will remain to ensure quality education,” board president Bill Sonneman wrote in his most recent monthly newsletter.
Sonneman said that a number of E supporters who are frustrated with the loss of the measure are looking for other ways to support the schools, and AEF has seen an uptick in calls from people wanting to donate money as a result. He said he thinks the foundation could take up programs that were reduced or eliminated from the district’s budget like middle and high school counselors.
“How would we fill in a gap? That’s a way we could help,” Sonneman said. “I want to be thoughtful about what we do.”
Fundraising and aid efforts in some communities have intensified in recent years, with great success. Parents in Cupertino raised $2.2 million over the course of eight weeks this spring in an effort to stave off 100 planned layoffs and maintain small elementary school class sizes. More than half the families in the district pitched in.
Mill Valley’s long-running educational foundation, Kiddo, raised more than $1.9 million for 2009-2010, money that was used for programs including art, music, drama, dance and other programs, and the foundation has a $3.6 million endowment. The non-profit also spent money last year to save classroom and library aides.
But others have been less successful. After the defeat of Pleasanton’s Measure G school parcel tax in 2009, parents there sought to raise $2.8 million to maintain smaller class sizes and other programs the parcel tax was to have preserved. They only succeeded in securing $459,000, a local paper reported.
Even communities that have been successful with their fundraising have acknowledged its limitations. Parents involved in Cupertino’s successful fundraising campaign were reportedly worried about the long-term sustainability of their efforts.
Superintendent Kirsten Vital said it could be tough for the district to count on donations and that they can’t be included in the district’s long-term budgets. And Sonneman said hiring teachers and staff to run programs with the money can be challenging, because they need to be willing to operate on year-to-year contracts.
Still, Vital said she’s looking forward to working with AEF and that she appreciates their fundraising efforts. And she said fundraising will be one of several topics to be discussed at a community meeting scheduled for tonight.
Vital and representatives from AEF, the APLUS parcel tax campaign and the Alameda PTA Council will talk about what’s next for funding Alameda’s schools at 6:30 p.m. today at the Alameda High School Little Theater, which is on the corner of Central and Walnut avenues.
Meanwhile, Sonneman and the foundation will continue to raise funds for the programs they offer, and perhaps more. Upcoming fundraisers include Alameda Wine Company’s upcoming Bastille Day celebration, which is from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 14. The suggested donation for the event, which includes wine tastings, is $20.
The foundation is also gearing up for a November 12 “All Together Now” fundraiser to support music, art, drama and other programs featuring the Sun Kings, a Beatles cover band, at Auctions by the Bay Theater. And it just kicked off its annual drive to gather office and school supplies for its Teacher Supply Store.
More information on AEF’s programs and how to donate can be found on their website.