Parents in the Beverly Hills, Santa Monica-Malibu and the Culver City unified school districts have launched campaigns urging taxpayers to donate their state tax rebate checks to the schools.
The campaigns in the three Westside districts are part of a statewide grass-roots movement.
"Every single person who endorses a check is making a contribution to this country's well-being . . . the children's future," said Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), who along with his wife, actress Jane Fonda, helped kick off the Santa Monica-Malibu district's campaign on Monday at Roosevelt Elementary School.
At issue is a $1.1-billion state budget surplus that school officials statewide tried--but failed--to persuade Gov. George Deukmejian and the Legislature to give to public education. Instead, 12 million tax-rebate checks averaging $94 will be mailed to state taxpayers through the end of the year.
The Santa Monica-Malibu, Culver City and Beverly Hills districts were among those lobbying to have the surplus turned over to the school system. Enrollment has declined in the three districts, which have had to make cuts to balance their budgets.
Margaret Rose Shultz, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, a nonprofit fund-raising organization for the district, said her group is trying to raise $50,000 through appeals to residents by telephone, mailings and door-to-door canvassing.
"It's a unique opportunity that you have this kind of money coming back into the community in such a lump sum," she said, "and it is an opportunity for people to direct their money to something that they really care for, education. The schools need money."
Shultz said the money raised by the foundation will be used to purchase school supplies, books and other equipment needed in the district.
School board President Mary Kay Kamath said that she hoped the campaign demonstrates to the Legislature and the governor the need for "more support for public education."
The Beverly Hills Education Foundation hopes to raise $100,000 by persuading 1,000 residents to hand over their checks.
Helen Molitz, who is coordinating the campaign for the foundation, said that people mistakenly believe that the Beverly Hills district is wealthy.
"Our schools are very low on funds because we don't get the help we need from Sacramento," she said.
The Beverly Hills foundation plans to appeal to parents in the district by phone and through the mail. "We would like all city residents to contribute their checks, but we have targeted parents," Molitz said.
Murray Fischer, the foundation's president, said his group is not seeking to make a political statement about state funding through the campaign.
"We are just interested in the money," he said. "It is a method of receiving additional dollars so that the school district can maintain the high-level quality education that the parents and residents of the city demand."
The Culver City Education Foundation, however, wants to raise funds and make a statement, said Bob Steinberg, the foundation's president.
Steinberg, who was reluctant to set a specific goal on the amount of money he hopes to raise, said his group has sent notices asking Culver City parents to mail in their checks.
The Culver City foundation intends to send copies of each check signed over to the foundation to Sacramento.
"We want to make a political statement to the Legislature and the governor," Steinberg said. "We want to point out that there is a need to make education a greater priority."