In light of the state's ailing budget and the failure last week of a parcel tax that would have dug Pleasanton schools out of their financial mess, officials say they have no choice but to resort to a major fundraising effort.
That starts now.
Letters have gone out to parents in the asking that they reach into their pockets to help save beloved programs, amp up library hours and buy much-needed computer equipment.
"Change is really, really hard," trustee Joan Laursen said Tuesday night.
"In Pleasanton, we've been a very good school district without parcel taxes and without fundraising (historically), but now we have to change that."
The district is facing a $7.7 million shortfall for the 2011-12 school year. Local officials say that Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent announcement that schools might see a reduction of up to $5 billion statewide after his May budget revise could bring budget cuts of up to $12 million in Pleasanton.
In three years, the district has cut $21 million to balance its budget.
"I am so tired of having this conversation every year — no more cuts," said Jamie Hintzke, board trustee.
"Cuts hurt kids. It's exhausting and we're not able to focus on what we're supposed to do."
If Measure E had passed last Tuesday, property owners in Pleasanton would have paid $98 per parcel each year for four years, generating about $2 million per year, or $8 million total. That would have done much to alleviate the shortfall, officials said.
But it failed by less than two percent.
This will be the second year that Pleasanton has held a fundraising effort to pull schools out of a financial hole.
Last year, the Community OutReach for Education Campaign, or CORE, netted the district $570,000 and officials hope the same thing will happen this year. The goal is $600,000, said Cindy Galbo, assistant superintendent of educational services.
She said this year the district waited until after the Measure E campaign to start raising funds.
"We wanted to make sure we had an idea what specific things we would need funded," she said.
This year's money will go toward adding up to five hours of library assistance per day at Pleasanton's nine elementary schools and six hours per day at the middle schools.
It also allows for technology support, student-support programs and reading specialists.
The high schools in Pleasanton also are hoping for library support, money for new technology purchases — including, but not limited to, computers — and student-support services such as extra classes for those needing help with high-school exit exams.
Galbo said the funds wouldn't go toward things such as reducing class sizes because that would cost an estimated $1.3 million, and it's not practical for a fundraising effort like this one.
That doesn't mean the district has given up on the issue. During the Tuesday meeting, board trustees voted to support a statewide "Week of Action," which consists mostly of teacher rallies in Sacramento and elsewhere targeted at convincing the governor not to cut school funding as deeply as he's threatening.
Board trustees said they have a lot of faith in the Pleasanton Partnerships in Education Foundation, which is a coalition of parent groups, the and educators. That group has handled past fundraising efforts.
Laursen said that under the current fundraising model, people involved believe in the cause.
"You have to be careful to balance it," she said. "We need to have people who believe in it and are passionate but then not pander to the interests of, 'I only want money to go to my child's classroom.' "
Laursen said the state's bare-bones budget has led to chronic underfunding of schools.
"It's just not adequate anymore," she said. "These days, the communities with the best schools have parcel taxes and education foundations — that's the reality now. We're trying to change the culture here. If we want to get the things we want, we have to change the way we do things."
Trustee Jeff Bowser said he was raised in Pleasanton and feels he should give back to the community that gave him so much.
"I want the next generation to have what I had," he said. "This (bad) economy will pass but, unfortunately, a child only gets to go through once.
"We need to come together to support the programs we value."