Granite Bay and Roseville are two Placer County communities that go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to education. Simply take a look at the work of the Eureka Schools Foundation (ESF) to find evidence of that dedication. For 21 years now the Eureka Schools Foundation, a non-profit foundation funded by donations from local businesses and private individuals, has been helping to enrich the lives of students and teachers in the Eureka Union School District (EUSD) by providing for additional programs not funded by the State’s budget.
Each year the Eureka Schools Foundation raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for EUSD through a number of community-based fundraising events. These events include an online and live auction, a student art auction, pledge drive, golf tournament, and the annual 5k/10k run. Local businesses and individuals are presented with various ways to help give to the organization and get involved with the community.
You might think that communities like Granite Bay or Roseville should have no problem funding their public schools due to a healthy property tax base. However, since before ESF’s inception, California’s outdated school budgeting program has left many districts far short of what they need to succeed; EUSD is one of those districts. In July Governor Jerry Brown signed the most sweeping (and controversial) change to California’s public school budgeting formula since 1972. The newly-created Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is intended to provide a more equitable funding model and to effectively pay back the deficit created by years of deferred payments. The formula replaces revenue limits with base grants per pupil, plus supplemental funding provided via percentage “weights” for students who are English learners, from low-income families, or in foster care.
Under the previous Revenue Limit budgeting system, established in 1972, the demographics and property tax base of the Eureka Union School District resulted in a yearly budget that fell far short of the needs of its students. Additionally, after years of insufficient funding and deferred payments, whereby the State re-allocated money belonging to California public schools to other government programs, EUSD and every other district in California found itself receiving less than 80% of the monies it was owed each year. In 2012 the amount of the deficit created by these deferrals was $10.4 Billion statewide. This deficit is what the LCFF is aimed at reconciling over its initial 8 year period. While this is an appropriate objective, the manner in which the LCFF model proposes to pay back the money the State had been deferring, means that many districts are likely to find their budgets varying greatly from year to year. There will also be wide variance in the funding levels between districts, as the LCFF is based on population demographics and not size or academic performance.
What does this mean for the Eureka Union School District? “The unpredictability of the LCFF budgeting model over the next 8 years means the Eureka Schools Foundation is more important than ever in maintaining the excellent educational standards that EUSD has established,” says Melody Glaspey, Chief Business Officer with EUSD, “Each year the Eureka Schools Foundation is there to fill in the gap created by the State’s public school funding.” Indeed every district should strive to achieve such high standards but without proper funding it is impossible to provide the programs and support that students need to thrive.
ESF has always been there to fill in the gap, funding many essential programs and services like library and technology staff, music programs, before and after-school Spanish language instruction, and after-school athletics coaches. Indeed the students of the EUSD see many of the same advantages of private school in a public school setting. In 2012 the record $669,000 donation made by ESF to the district prevented the School Board from having to lay off librarians while a nearby district was forced to let go of 24 teachers. In June ESF announced that they would be donating $301,000 to the Eureka Union School District for the 2013-14 school year.
ESF doesn’t just provide grants to educate and enrich the students of the EUSD. ESF’s Summer Institute program provides advanced summer instruction to EUSD teachers in “21st century teaching practices”. These courses are designed to inform teachers about new technology and new developments in classroom education, helping to enrich teachers’ knowledge and experience as well as the students’. “Our aim is to keep teachers sharp and motivated so they can create a positive educational environment for EUSD students,” says Mark Goozen, President of ESF. “This dedication is reflected in the high test scores seen throughout our district.” The schools in the Eureka Union School District are consistently ranked among the best schools in Placer County and the State of California.
The Eureka Schools Foundation strives for transparency by publishing a list of all the programs funded by ESF grants each year and cost of those programs. The funding grants for the five school years can be viewed on their website.
What the final verdict will be on the new LCFF model is unsure. What is clear though is that even with this new funding model the budget gap faced by the Eureka Union School District isn’t going away in the foreseeable future. Thankfully the community members of Roseville and Granite Bay place a great deal of value on education and they aren’t afraid to put their money where their mouth is.