Public education funds continue to be a source of angst for parents in California and across the country. Many parents feel confused about why education is seemingly a low priority and helpless as to how to help their children. In the Rancho Santa Fe School District, 15 years ago parents took matters into their own hands and created the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation (RSFEF) which aids the R. Roger Rowe School (Ranch School). Why did they do that for a public school?
Basic Aid District
The Rancho Santa Fe School District is a Basic Aid District which means that State and Federal funds account for about 3 percent of our school’s annual budget. The District receives approximately 82 percent of funding from local property taxes. In 1978, Proposition 13 capped property taxes for all California homes purchased prior to 1978. This limited tax revenue to the school despite rising education costs. The current budget system is just not adequate to support the type of education that we all want for our children. In the last few years, many homeowners have reassessed their properties at lower levels and there have even been foreclosures, further reducing tax income for the school.
Yet because of the RSFEF, children at the Ranch School returned to school with average class sizes of 18 and specialized teachers for subjects like art, music, science, technology and physical education, as well as library time each week.
“The difference really is the private funding that comes about through the Education Foundation,” commented RSF Education Foundation Chair Glenn Oratz. “In the last three years property taxes as well as federal and state revenues have declined over $1 million. These negative developments create an urgent need to ensure that we are able to maintain existing and planned academic and enrichment programs in order to retain our position as one of the best public schools in the country.”
$1 million pledge for one of the best public schools in the country
This year, the RSFEF has pledged $1 million for the third year in a row to support its’ Five-Star Education program. “I’ve often been asked “if we didn’t get the money from the Education Foundation what would we do?” remarked Lindy Delaney, superintendent at the Ranch School. “And it’s very clear we would have to cut valuable programs from the budget. For example, our class sizes would go up, Literacy Support teachers would go away, special programs such as art, music, computers, drama and athletics might be cut, and elementary science teachers would be drastically reduced.” The $1 million contribution by the RSFEF this year is approximately 11 percent of the district’s budget.
The RSFEF’s Five-Star Education program for 2012/2013 includes:
•Small Class Size – average of 18 students;
•Specialized Teachers – for Art, Athletics, Drama, Math, Music, Science, Spanish & Technology;
•Literacy Excellence – specialists further reduce class sizes & assist classroom teachers with the Columbia University Reading & Writing Program;
•Integrated Science – a program that uses the best practices of traditional & innovative teaching including hands-on experiences;
•Differentiated Mathematics – specialists further reduce class sizes & provide instruction based on proficiency in grades 1 – 6, as well as additional classes and advanced instruction at the middle school level.
“We have the advantage of being a one school district so every dollar contributed to the RSFEF goes to our school,” offered Leslie DeGoler, RSFEF marketing chair. “We want parents to understand that 94 percent of RSFEF funds provide for a class size average of 18 and specialized teachers through teacher salaries and 3 percent is for enrichment activities such as Red Ribbon Week, Science Discovery Day, Ocean Weeks and Field Day.”, she added. With only 3 percent in operating expenses almost every dollar raised by the RSFEF directly benefits students.
Be Proud to Participate
“As parents we should contribute to the Education Foundation,” said Tiffany Catledge, a parent and active RSFEF volunteer and contributor. “We’re basically getting a private school education here at a public school offering.”
The RSFEF is asking that each family contribute their “Fair Share” cost per child of $1,609 ($1 million divided by 640 students) or to the best of their ability. This year the Cap and Gown level is $2,000 per student and the Benefactor level is $3,000 per student. The Foundation also relies heavily on the philanthropic contributions of the Scholars’ Circle. This group comprises 20 percent of the school’s families and local businesses who make multi-year commitments of $35K or more that fund 50% of the total grant to the school.
Mr. Oratz noted, “We are very fortunate that the vast majority of parents as well as staff support the Education Foundation. We welcome and look forward to the day that 100 percent of this community supports us.” He added, “We welcome contributions at any level. Everyone should feel proud to participate at ANY level that is appropriate for your family and be a part of supporting our school.”
Your Donation Needed by Red Envelope Day
Please contribute to the RSFEF by Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 – Red Envelope Day. We encourage all school families to participate. Community and corporate donations are also encouraged. For questions or more information please go to www.rsfef.org or contact the Education Foundation at 858-756-1141, x208. Be proud to participate. The difference is you!
— RSF Education Foundation