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Alameda Education Foundation considers expanded role

Submitted by on 1, July 8, 2010 – 5:00 am4 Comments

Wood and Lincoln girls' basketball teams. Courtesy of AEF.

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.


  • Dennis Green says:

    Superintendent Vital has very little confidence in AEF, apparently, or even in the 14,000+ people who said yes on Measure E to raise enough money to “save the schools.” Perhaps she would rather continue being dependent on massive parcel taxes to realize her goals. But in the past, she has placed her confidence on political consultants Erwin & Muir, who gave her such back advice in the past, charged her $300/hr. and yet delivered only 35% of Alameda’s registered voters. Will she put herself and the district through all this again in March? Indications of a double-dip recession suggest that such a parcel tax initiative would not be any easier to pass early in 2011. And although some tentative signs of support for such a second try are building, so are signs of opposition. Only if such a proposal is much more modest in funding and length of duration, is a flat tax for residential and commercial alike, and follows more savings and reforms in AUSD, will such a proposal stand a chance. If the district is dispirited now, imagine what it will be like in Alameda if AUSD attempts another disastrous parcel tax vote in March and it too loses.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    If another parcel tax is placed on the ballot next spring, will Dennis Green automatically oppose it? (Looks like he already does.)

    The “disaster” has already occurred, Mr. Green. Without significant new funding, the AUSD’s “Plan B” cuts are being planned for and implemented, and Alameda’s students (kids and adults) will suffer, beginning this fall. And it will only get worse. The serious cuts to AUSD programs in years past have already cut into muscle and bone, far beyond any
    “fat” that Mr. Green might fantasize still exists.

    What “savings and reforms” does Mr. Green have in mind? Asking teachers to serve as volunteers or in exchange for food baskets brought by grateful parents? Having teacher salaries supported by bake sales?

    The “flat tax” Green proposes would mean one more inequitable tax on Alameda homeowners.

    The effect of 1978’s Proposition 13 has been to decrease the overall proportion of property tax contributions made to public services and public schools in CA by commercial property owners. This has placed a higher burden on homeowners, and it is only fair that any local parcel tax take that into account. But a flat tax that taxes residential and commercial properties at the same rate fails to do that, and relieves businesses from taking their fair share of responsibility. Is Mr. Green is advocating increased inequity in our tax structure?

    I hope not. The naysaying is bad enough.

  • Hot R says:

    Green wants a drastically reduced District, no split roll, and a tax no higher than the previous Measure H. At no time does he think about the impact on education, Alameda students, acknowledge that the State of California has drastically reduced funding for Alameda, or that Alameda schools were doing a good job for its students. He has proposed that teaching hours be cut and replaced by online courses with computers to monitor “eyeball activity” (I’m not kidding). He has suggested that class sizes of up to 60-1 are fine, as that’s what he had when teaching in college (kindergarten? middle school? high school?) He has continually misconstrued and obscured all logical arguments with claims of racism (rich Whites v, everyone else),exorbitant legal fees (caused by Berry and Borikas) and poor test scores, all flying in the face of documented gains. He claims an IQ of 167. In each case these statements are taken from his website. In short his position is so far out of touch with reality as to lose all credibility.

  • cara says:

    As a teacher, class size is one of my most important issues. There is no way I could effectively teach 60 first graders. Helping with classroom supplies for teachers is extremely important at this time too. This sounds like a scary situation.

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