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Schools Relying on Student Dues, Fund-Raisers : Education: Athletic programs, extracurricular activities, even facilities increasingly count on money from private sources to stay afloat.

November 04, 1994|TRACY WILSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Bake sales don't cut it for fund-raising in east Ventura County schools anymore.

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Nowadays, some schools host major tennis or golf tournaments to raise thousands--if not tens of thousands--of dollars. And individual students are asked to sell everything from calendars to candy and catalogues to Christmas wrapping paper to raise money for school activities.

In the Conejo Valley Unified School District, parent boosters generate about $1.72 million each year for school programs such as bands, sports teams, and even construction projects and computer labs.

Because of diminishing state funds, parents and district officials say schools rely on community fund-raising efforts and contributions from local businesses to keep some campus programs afloat.

"It has taken boosters and sponsors to make the programs work, to make the facilities playable, to provide the coaching that was necessary to give the credence to programs that would otherwise be dropped," Newbury Park High School booster Dennis Turville said.

Newbury Park High's booster club raises about $20,000 a year just for the school's football team, Turville said. That money pays for field maintenance, equipment and facility improvements.

"We do a lot of things that don't fall into our jurisdiction, but if we didn't they wouldn't get done," he said.

Parents at Cypress and Aspen elementary schools raised money for nearly a decade to help fund new campus buildings. Construction projects are typically funded though bond issues.

"If we go back to tradition, state funding was based on (being provided with) a chair and a desk and a chalkboard," said Assistant Supt. Richard Simpson. "Parents expected a school to have facilities."

But as the state has grown, Simpson said, it has become increasingly difficult to get school construction bonds passed by California voters. "The tremendous influx of voters in this state tend not to be parents," Simpson said.

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Consequently, voters with children in public schools are paying more to subsidize the system and students are being asked to raise money for extracurricular activities, parents and school officials said.

"It's expensive to go to public school nowadays," said parent Kathy Lakotich, who works two part-time jobs to support her three children and their various campus activities. Her 15-year-old daughter's cheerleading dues alone cost $1,000 this school year.

"The programs can't go on anymore unless there is parent involvement," she said. "And if the programs aren't here, where would the kids be?"

High school bands and sports teams rely the most on parent and student fund-raising efforts.

Simi Valley High School's band operates on a $57,000 annual budget--only $2,000 of which comes from the school district. The 124 students in the band are asked to pay yearly dues of $185, which cover the cost of their uniforms and transportation to events. Scholarships are available for youngsters who cannot afford the fee.

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In addition to paying $185, students are required to participate in other fund-raising activities to supplement the band budget.

"We sell Christmas trees, we sell See's candy, we sell Marie Callender's pies, we sell gift-wrapping paper," said parent Herman Conant. "The school district keeps taking away from these kids. How else are you going to get it?"

To participate in a spring band trip to Hawaii, 138 Thousand Oaks High band students must raise more than $1,000 each in addition to their $271 annual dues.

Although there are ample fund-raising opportunities for the trip, such as the sale of coupon books and a recent rummage sale that generated about $8,500, some students are working part-time jobs to pay their way.

"My paycheck goes to Hawaii," said junior Sarah Zumaris, 16, who is working part-time at the Broadway.

A portion of the fund-raising money goes into a scholarship account for students who need assistance paying for the trip. But finding time to raise money or people willing to buy items during an economic slump is difficult, students said.

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"Your neighbors get so sick of you," said Megan Young, a 16-year-old band member.

Some parents say there is tremendous pressure--on both students and parents--to come up with the money for school events. But band boosters say scholarships are available for families who cannot afford the expensive activities.

"If a family has any type of financial problems, they can send in a written (request) to the boosters," said parent Mary Litzsinger.

"We do acknowledge that for some families this is prohibitive," she said. "(But) this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

School expenses are not limited just to extracurricular activities, however. Conejo Valley Unified sixth graders must raise about $145 to attend camp in the spring.

The weeklong science camp, held at an outdoor school in the Santa Monica Mountains, is the highlight of the year for many youngsters.

For some, raising the money for their trips makes the experience more meaningful, educators said.

"They feel ownership for it," said James Azevedo, a sixth-grade teacher at Park Oaks Elementary School.

Simi Valley band parent Conant agrees.

"They learn right away what it costs to do things," he said, "They learn the value of money."

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