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The Los Angeles Times took a look at private fundraising for public schools. It’s an issue looming larger as California schools anticipate sizable cuts in response to the state’s budget crisis:

Public school district fundraising foundations were first formed after voter approval in 1978 of Proposition 13, which limited property tax increases and dramatically reduced school finances. Those groups have long helped parents in affluent areas enrich their children’s public school educations in ways that include field trips, music classes and such expensive classroom equipment as digital cameras, scientific robots and laptops. Today, such groups are fighting to pay for the basics: teachers’ jobs, manageable class sizes, nurses.

“It’s gone beyond frills at this point,” said David Wagman, president of the Peninsula Education Foundation, which is asking Palos Verdes parents for $200 per child to save the jobs of 59 teachers. PTAs and students are also holding fundraisers.

Education officials acknowledge that these fundraising groups are more successful in wealthier areas, increasing the divide between the haves and the have-nots. And they can make financially strapped parents in affluent districts feel like second-class citizens.

Closer to home in San Diego, one principal is literally running to save the school library. You might remember Curie Elementary principal Chris Juarez from our article about how the budget cuts could impact his University City elementary school. The proposed cuts would reduce the school’s librarian to a single hour per day. That makes it difficult to operate the library, Juarez explained.

The La Jolla Village News reported that Juarez is running the Big Sur International Marathon for donations. His goal is $25,000, an average of $50 per family.

And the school funding shortage has trickled into the mayoral race, too. Candidate Steve Francis plans to raise $1.5 million a year through a fund for San Diego schools, the Union-Tribune reported today.

Could there be a downside to private money in public schools? The LAT mentioned the natural imbalance between affluent areas and their less well-off counterparts when it comes to passing the hat for the local school. And my predecessor Vlad Kogan wrote last year about legal questions raised about school foundations in Del Mar.

EMILY ALPERT

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