Parent contributions at Rancho Santa Fe School critical to offset economic downturn
Students at the R. Roger Rowe School returned to average class sizes of 18 students and an overall teacher to student ratio of 1:11, despite the state of education funding in California and across the country. This is largely due to the generosity of the RSF Education Foundation, which has pledged $1 million for the second year in a row to maintain the world-class level of education. The Foundation is primarily run by parent volunteers and as a single school district all funds go to the Rowe School.
“Over 96 percent of funds raised by the Foundation go directly to the classroom, the kids and the school,” noted Foundation Chairman Bill Gaylord.
The grant from the Foundation helps fund the RSF Education Foundation’s “Five-Star Education” Program. The 2011/2012 program includes:
•Small Class Size – average class size of 18;
•Specialized Teachers – 61 percent have advanced or specialized degrees;
•Literacy Excellence – an affiliate school accepted as part of the Columbia University/Teacher’s College Reading & Writing Project;
•Integrated Science – integrates traditional & innovative science education techniques;
•Differentiated Mathematics – individualized to meet the needs of all students.
Parents this year are being asked to contribute their fair share of $1,497 for each child. “Last year we had record high participation of 85 percent, and this year we hope that all parents will make it a priority to contribute to the best of their ability,” said Gaylord. The Foundation requests that all families contribute or pledge by Friday, Sept. 30 – Red Envelope Day.
How do the students at the Ranch School benefit from their parents’ and the community’s generosity?
•With the Foundation – 18 students per class; without - 32 students per class;
•With the Foundation – teachers with specialized degrees teaching math, music, art, athletics, science, Spanish, drama & technology; without – general teachers or parent volunteers teaching math, music, art, athletics, science, Spanish, drama & technology;
•With the Foundation – math being taught in groups of 10 students; without – math being taught in groups of 32 students;
•With the Foundation – science being taught using Labs, Robotics & Computers; without – science being taught with only standard text books..
Because of the grant from the Foundation the school uses specialized Literacy Support teachers who further reduce class size to a 10:1 student to teacher ratio during the literacy block.
Schools throughout the state are faced with class sizes of 30-40+ students and few specialized teachers. “Student-teacher ratios, that’s why we’re here,” commented Molly Wohlford whose family moved here from Valley Center last year. One employee at the school whose kids go to school in Poway said her children are in a class with more than 40 students.
Despite the appearance, Rancho Santa Fe has been impacted by the economic downturn. “We are not immune to the economic situation and the funding gaps are getting bigger,” commented superintendent Lindy Delaney. “We have seen an operating budget decline from $10.6 million to $9.1 million in the last three years alone creating a huge gap for us.”
Rancho Santa Fe is a basic aid district which means it receives revenue primarily from property taxes. “In years past we counted on 6-8 percent increases every year,” she said. “In the last three years there has been a consistent downfall in property taxes. People have been selling and re-assessing their homes at lower values.” Last year the school lost $400,000 in property tax income; this year the anticipated loss is an additional $38,000 - $146,000.
Federal funds account for around 1 percent of the school budget; historically these funds were 4 percent of the budget. Last year the school received $636,304 from the state and had to return $257,651 in response to the state budget crisis and to help alleviate the burden on Revenue Limit School districts that receive the majority of their funding from the State. “This year we are anticipating little or no money from the state,” said Superintendent Delaney. “The cumulative loss is staggering.”
The school has down-sized non-essential classroom personnel and tightened supplies in order to maintain strong classroom instruction and increase programs that provide students with 21st century skills. “It is a district goal to have 100 percent of all students score proficient or advanced on the California Standards Tests. But it’s not just about test scores. It’s about creating and developing students that can be creative and be responsible citizens in the digital landscape,” said assistant superintendent Cindy Schaub. To meet these goals the district requires funds beyond property tax revenues.
The grant from the Education Foundation is critical. Many families contribute at higher levels than the Fair Share that the Foundation requests per student. This year the Cap and Gown level is $2,000 per student. The Foundation also relies heavily on the philanthropic contributions of the Scholar’s Circle. This group comprises 20 percent of the school’s families and local businesses who make multi-year commitments that fund 50 percent of the total grant to the school. “The multi-year pledges from these families and community partners allow Superintendent Delaney to budget and provide a foundation for stability for the school,” remarked Bill Gaylord. “We are grateful to these families and businesses for their generosity.”
“Contributing to the Education Foundation used to be a nice thing to do,” said Foundation Marketing Chair Leslie DeGoler. “That’s not the case anymore. It’s now a necessity for all families.”
To maintain our small class sizes, specialized teachers and the other cornerstones of our Five Star Education Program, the Foundation must solicit and count on the help of all school parents. The difference is you. For more information please contact the Education Foundation at 858-756-1141 x208. Please do as much as you can.
— Submitted by RSF Education Foundation