LAEF Grant - Frequently Asked Questions
Who decides what programs should be funded by LAEF donations?
Grant-making is a long and complex process that begins in January when LASD received their preliminary state funding and ends in June once the district school board has approved a final budget for the year.
A small group of parent volunteers on the LAEF board serve on the Grantmaking Committee. They meet regularly with district Superintendent Jeff Baier, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Alyssa Gallagher and Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Randy Kenyon, to work on possible scenarios of LAEF funding. District administration and staff are education experts and provide educational priorities for program funding. They identify programs that can’t be funded in the baseline program (the program that LASD can afford with its public sources of revenue like property and parcel taxes plus state and federal funding). LAEF chooses programs from that list of unfunded items, called the "cut list". LAEF examines costs of each program, and works with district administration to align LASD educational priority lists with parent feedback and priorities.
The LAEF Grantmaking Committee brings back recommendations and funding options to the entire LAEF board and the board votes on the LAEF 2011-12 grant in June. The Board votes to fund programs that are unfunded by LASD and deemed high priority by LASD administration and LASD parents. The Board also reviews the programs to be funded by grade to ensure that the grants are spread proportionally across all grades and schools in the district. Once approved by the LAEF Board, our grant is submitted to the LASD School Board of elected officials for approval.
The LAEF board is always interested in hearing your thoughts! If you have input and ideas, please contact the LAEF board members at your school.
Why doesn’t LAEF take the entire amount of money raised and put it towards class size reduction?
Our mission is to “provide funding for enrichment programs and educational materials to enhance the solid academic curriculum and maintain the high quality of education of the Los Altos School District elementary and junior high schools.” Our organization raises money to enhance the basic program offered by our schools. We provide the “extras” that Sacramento budgets no longer cover. LAEF funding was expanded to include class size and library funding but our organization was set up to fund the education of the whole child.
To date, class sizes have been threatened mostly in grades K-3 and Junior High. LAEF is a foundation that funds programs across all grades and all schools in the district, K-8. We fundraise from all parents. It wouldn’t be right or fair to put the entire foundation grant into programs that only serve a segment of the children but raise money from all of the families. We make a tremendous effort to ensure that our grants are spread fairly and proportionally across all grades and schools so that every child benefits from LAEF funding.
K-3 Class size maximums for 2011-12 have grown from a cap of 24 children to 25. Why can’t we keep them at 24 or even better, bring them down more?
The LAEF board put as much funding as we could towards K-3 class size while still maintaining a grant balanced evenly across the grades. We increased our K-3 class size support over last year by $240,000, an increase of 36% based on the data in our January parent survey where K-3 parents told us that class size was the most important benefit to them. In order to fund at a higher level, we made the difficult trade-off decision not to bring back lower grade PE teachers and to reduce library time for Kindergartners. This decision was made in partnership with our District Superintendent and his staff.
For perspective, the cost to buy back enough teachers to get our K-3 classes down to 24 would require an incremental $400,000. If we did that, we would also need to provide similar value programs to other grades yielding a grant that would have been over a $3 million commitment. We just didn’t feel that district parents wanted to fund at that level, especially with the recent increase in the parcel tax.
LAEF is not paying for PE for Grades 1-3 like last year—does that mean my child in those grades won’t get any PE?
Your child will still have PE! The state of California mandates that all elementary school children have 200 minutes of physical education over 10 days. Instead of PE Specialists teaching PE, your child’s grade level teacher will teach PE. It was a difficult decision for the LAEF board to not bring back PE Specialists for Grades 1-3 from the district "cut list", but parent feedback in our survey indicated that smaller class sizes were the priority and we knew that by law our 1st-3rd Graders would still get those important minutes outside to get their wiggles out!
LAEF is not paying for elementary school Science Specialists like last year—does that mean my child in those grades won’t get any Science?
Like PE, Science will still be taught in all grades but all of the teaching will be done by grade level teachers. They have always taught most of the science lessons and curriculum in the past. In the past, the Science Specialists helped organize and teach some of the labs and maintain the FOSS kits used for Science lessons. Those activities will now be performed by classroom teachers. In addition, LAEF continues to fund the innovative Living Classroom program. Much like our Art Docent program, this is a low cost, high quality program that leverages parent volunteers to deliver science lessons for Grades K-6.
What happened to the Fine Arts Block (FAB) program?
After two years of mixed feedback about FAB, the LAEF board felt that we needed to revisit the program. In our parent surveys, we heard that parents loved having music but the number of instructional minutes has decreased over the years, affecting the quality of the program. So, we restored the program back to levels from several years ago and the district will be hard at work over the summer to revitalize the curriculum. Fourth Graders will continue to have music once a week to take recorder and learn how to read music or to have vocal music. Grades 5 & 6 will have instrumental music twice a week for the full year. We will return to having two concerts per year. something that many parents told us was important to them.
The Art and Drama classes that were part of FAB had mixed feedback and rather than bring back these additional classes, the LAEF board decided to focus funds on delivering one strong program at the highest quality possible. In addition, all elementary school children will receive a variety of art lessons from the art docent program which is a low cost, very effective program.
LAEF funded Computer Lab Specialists in prior years. Why not this year?
Computer staff was low on the district’s “bring back” list because they are currently reviewing all technology support in our schools with an effort to consolidate services centrally to be more cost efficient. Some of our Computer Specialists did “double duty” as tech support. The computer labs on all of the campuses will still be open and classroom teachers will be able to use them whenever they want to leverage technology for projects in the curriculum. Many schools are also moving to laptop carts so that computer equipment can come to the children instead of the children going to the computers. At the 6/27/11 LASD School Board meeting, the District Superintendent proposed an additional $100,000 be spent to ensure that tech support on campuses remains adequate while they plan for a more efficient model in 2012-12. The extra $100,000 would come from district reserves and is currently pending LASD Board approval.
Why does it seem that most of LAEF grants go to the elementary grades and not junior high?
The LAEF board works very hard to balance our grant as evenly as possible across all grades K-8 so that all children in the district receive a similar value benefit from LAEF grants. The grant is also balanced between Elementary and Junior Highs based on the enrollment at each level. The Junior High grant represents 22% of the total LAEF grant with Junior High planned enrollment at 22% of total district enrollment for next year. These funds are spent in this school year so both 7th and 8th graders receive a full year of benefit from LAEF funded staff.
Why did LAEF stop funding some of its programs this year? Why not bring all of them back?
Our board of parent volunteers would have loved to bring everything back and more. Sadly, programs on the district "cut list", including class size, totaled over $4 million! That would have been the cost to keep the entire K-8 program the same from 2010-11 to 2011-12. With declining state and property tax revenues and rising costs, it’s just too much for LAEF to fill in the entire gap in the district budget, even with the passage of Measure E and some teacher compensation concessions. Some LAEF program cuts were also necessary to allow us to increase our support for K-3 class size, while other cuts were made because the quality of the programs did not meet parent expectations.
Does LAEF hire teachers/aides?
Does LAEF apply for grants?
LAEF applies for and receives small grants from local community organizations like the Kiwani’s Club, Federated Woman’s Club, etc. Grant money from large foundations and corporations are often tied to underprivileged and disadvantaged student populations and underperforming schools.
Can’t we cut administrative overhead and salaries to balance the budget?
The Los Altos School District has very low overhead costs. The ratio of administrators to teachers is 4.9%, well below the state standard of 9%. LASD has won eight consecutive meritorious budget awards and four consecutive certificates of excellence in financial management and reporting. Several years ago, district administrators voluntarily increased their contributions to healthcare from 5% to 20% and will further increase them to 25% starting January 2012.