Malibu PTA Members Briefed by School District’s New PR/Fundraising Firm by Kristina Kell

Grassroots Group Explores Legal Ways for Private Donations to Be Used Solely at Local Schools

Linda Gross, the executive director of the controversial Santa Monica Malibu Education Foundation, arranged a meeting Monday afternoon at Webster Elementary School between the SMMEF’s newly acquired public relations/fundraising firm, PRP Fundraising, LLC, and Malibu PTA members. PRP executives Paul Lanning and Richard Mahan addressed a group of Malibu PTA members, to describe their new role as paid consultants specializing in public relations, marketing and fundraising.

SMMEF is the entity that is slated to replace the Malibu and Santa Monica PTAs as the sole fundraising organization in both cities and is responsible for all funding disbursements to the schools under the direction of Superintendent Sandra Lyon. The SMMEF’s website states it is “the sole fundraising organization equitably serving the entire Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.”

Opponents to the new fundraising model claim that when the model is implemented (likely by fall of 2013), the “equity” part of the SMMEF description doesn’t apply to Malibu because Malibu schools stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of their private PTA donations to Santa Monica.

Only when particular Santa Monica schools have “raised their boats” for per-student spending, can any PTA private donations return to Malibu for essential programs and staff that Malibu PTAs have traditionally funded. In order for the funds to return to Malibu, the SMMEF, which last year raised approximately $400,000, would need to raise roughly three million dollars—donations they expect in large part to come from wealthy Malibu residents.

During the meeting with PRP, Malibu PTA members repeatedly recounted the feelings of animosity and resentment that developed when local residents learned they would have to adhere to a new fundraising model that, in their opinion, was implemented hastily with disregard for the entire Malibu community.

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