SMSF Chief’s Reminder on School Funding Gap

As the new executive director of the San Marino Schools Foundation, James Lau said he has learned that San Marino is blessed with charitable parents and groups to keep the foundation going.
One of those groups, Rotary Club of San Marino, hosted him at its meeting last week, giving him the opportunity to continue marketing SMSF’s mission. The group was formed after changes to the state’s property tax laws substantially changed the funding formula for public school districts. Even after recent changes to the formula, small, high-performing districts such as San Marino Unified receive minimal state funding.
“Organizations like San Marino Schools Foundation stepped up to bridge that gap,” Lau told Rotary Club. “There’s a big disparity, and that’s what makes the school foundation’s challenge worthwhile.”
The foundation has an annual benchmark of raising at least $2 million to continue funding more than 20 teachers at SMUSD schools. This year it moved forward with a grant-style system through which the district pitches a variety of funding areas, and foundation trustees pick which ones to fund. The recently approved Student Wellness Initiative, for example, was funded essentially in its entirety for the coming school year by SMSF.
“That’s going to be huge and something that stays with children throughout their lives, so we’re going to continue supporting that,” Lau said.
Moving forward, Lau said, he hoped to build upon existing relationships within San Marino and bridge new ones to continue the fundraising and personal networking. One immediate goal for the foundation, he said, was to increase the percentage of SMUSD parents contributing to the foundation. Lau also expressed a desire to work with local Realtors to convey the importance of local civic organizations to potential homebuyers.
“There are so many possibilities that can come from this community, and it starts right here,” he said. “Your investment, your partnership contribute to creating this environment.”

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