Last year, parents and community members donated $3 million to schools in the financially-strapped Capistrano Unified School District.
Much of the money went to support outdoor science camp, primary music programs, computer purchases, art programs, classroom supplies, and field trips—programs much like a now defunct-handwriting curriculum that district officials would like to reinstate.
In 2006, the district adopted “Handwriting Without Tears” to teach elementary students how to write in cursive. But in 2009, the district had to eliminate the $160,000 in funding for the program because of budget cuts.
“This left teachers without handwriting student workbooks or practice worksheets,” district staffers wrote in a memo to the board of trustees. Some schools purchased the curriculum on their own through donations.
The district's board of trustees is scheduled to discuss Wednesday providing the program in the coming school year for all of its students through donations and/or using “categorical” monies. Categorical funding is designated for specific students, such as special education, and does not come from the district’s general fund.
Since 2007, the district reports that it has made about $90 million in cuts. The that trustees adopted last month foresees the state funding each student at the same level as the 2010-11 school year. However, because of declining enrollment, the district will still receive less money overall.
Parents and community members try to fill the void. According to a district press release, they gave $3,088,179.29 through Parent-Teacher Associations and other sources.
At $241,873.24—with $225,000 of that coming from a grant from The Leonard Foundation, in San Clemente received the most donations. Las Palmas used the funds to provide intervention programs for students who need additional academic assistance as well as enrichment programs such as music and art.
The Ladera Ranch Education Foundation was the largest single donor, gifting funds to schools that serve Ladera Ranch students, including in San Juan Capistrano and in Las Flores.
PTA members also provided 490,685 man hours volunteering at the various schools.
Meanwhile in Los Alamitos, school officials are asking parents to donate $351 per child.
In letters sent last week, school district Superintendent Sherry Kropp and Los Alamitos Educational Foundation President Tom Stretz told families the money would be used to reduce class sizes for the 2011-12 school year.
This isn't the first time has passed the hat, but the amount being requested is drastically higher than previous campaigns, which began two years ago with a pitch for about $100 per child.
In June, the LAUSD Board of Education approved year-to-date donations of $668,093.
The Capistrano Unified School District board of trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the district headquarters, 33122 Valle Rd. in San Juan Capistrano.
-- Los Alamitos Patch reporter Cristina De Leon-Menjivar contributed to this report.