District Relies on MEF to Bridge Funding Gap, Again

Colleen OBrien, Staff Writer

Area schools have long considered the Moraga Education Foundation a safety net against the looming threat of state budget cuts. But as the governor’s itemized budget announcement date approaches, questions are being raised as to whether MEF will be able to prevent the cuts that seem eminent for the community’s schools.

California has released its general funding allocation for education, leaving its schools with a hulking $9.2-billion deficit. However, this is an improvement over last year’s $26-billion deficit.

Despite the state’s funding shortcoming, Parents’ Club president Linda O’Brien remains confident that the much-feared cuts to Campolindo programs and staff will not come this year. “Between us, MEF, the the district reserve, and the money coming in from the parcel tax, we should be able to avoid any cuts,” said O’Brien.

MEF, which has been fundraising since July 1, 2011, will not know until June 15 what its budget will be for the 2012-2013 school year.

Once the last donations are in, the decision-making is up to Moraga school district superintendent Bruce Burns and Campolindo principal Carol Kitchens. The Moraga School District includes grades K-8 at four schools; elementary schools Rheem, Camino Pablo, and Los Perales Elementary and intermediate school Joaquin Moraga.

Once the two are given the overall budget for the community’s schools, Burns and Kitchens will work together to divide up MEF’s funds based on need. Contrary to popular belief, MEF president Diana Obrand said, “MEF is a fundraising organization. We don’t make those decisions. We just try to make as much money as we can to fill in the holes.”  While MEF is responsible for raising the annual funds, where they are spent is determined by the respective districts themselves.

According to vice principal Sharon Bartlett, “We are very fortunate” to have MEF to take some of the pressure off of Moraga schools. “MEF has been absolutely heroic in contributions to out school…without MEF we’d be in bad shape.”

However, O’Brien cautions, this solution cannot last indefinitely. “We have enough district reserve money to avoid cuts for about another year,” (meaning the end of the 2012-2013 school year) said O’Brien, but beyond that, the future is uncertain.