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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Loyola Village Elementary Turns To Neighborhood Council For Funding

Soyoung Kim |
March 2, 2011 | 12:24 a.m. PST


Loyola Village (Soyoung Kim / Neon Tommy)
Loyola Village (Soyoung Kim / Neon Tommy)

One cash-strapped Los Angeles Unified School District school struggling through the district's ongoing fiscal crisis has turned to another government entity in the community to help make ends meet.

For the first time in its more than 20 year history, the booster club for Loyola Village Elementary School appealed to the Westchester/Playa Neighborhood Council for help, asking them to purchase printers for the school. 

The lack of funding from state resources has forced the school to turn to its community for additional financial assistance, said Lara Levicki-Lavi, president of Loyola Village Elementary School’s Booster Club.

The school district has cut their school’s budget in every facet and every department, Levicki-Lavi said.  The little funding that was available was put into educational software such as reading and math enhancements for lower performing students.

“We won’t have a librarian, we don’t have a vice-principal, we won’t have a magnet coordinator, we don’t have an arts program,” Levicki-Lavi said. “There’s very, very little.”
Until recently, all of the Booster Club’s fundraising was done within the school, by reaching out to parents. But Levicki-Lavi said that more than half of the students are now on the free lunch program, which means they cannot afford to give their child $1 for lunch let alone donate to schoolwide fundraisers.

Parent donations to the Booster Club range from $20 to $1,000 a year. By contrast, a nearby charter school raises between $700 and $1,500 from most families, she said.

“We can’t do that,” Levicki-Lavi said. “There is not a lot for parents to give, so we need to start reaching out to the community and beyond, and that’s what we’ve really been doing this year.”

The Neighborhood Council works closely with the Westchester/Playa Education Foundation and helps fund many of their projects. The finance committee allocates money to non-profit and charitable organizations as part of its budget every year in the form of a neighborhood grant, and schools fall under this umbrella.

Levicki-Lavi heard through WPEF that the council had extra funds and would be open to solicitations.

Levicki-Lavi made her case at the most recent meeting of the council’s finance committee in late February. The finance committee, a sub-unit of the main neighborhood council, makes budget- related recommendations to the main board. Of the finance committee’s eight members, seven members are also members of the main board.

Levicki-Lavi originally asked for $7,500 for the purchase of a printer for each of the 22 school’s classrooms.

In a vote of 4-1, the committee approved the request, but capped the motion at $5,000. The higher sum would have purchased color-ink printers, but the amount recommended is sufficient to cover the cost of basic black-ink printers.

“Five thousand dollars was somewhere along the lines that we can do,” Alex Eychis, chair of the committee, said. “If the neighborhood council can facilitate it, that’s what the function of the neighborhood council should be.”

The committee has seen an increase in the number of schools asking for help, Eychis said. They recently approved a grant to Orville Wright Middle School for a project that helps children with behavior modification with their peers and teachers.

The neighborhood council’s budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year is $47,000. They have currently allocated about half.

“We can’t approve all the projects,” Eychis said. “So we need to prioritize.”
The committee works on a first come, first served basis, Eychis said. They verify the legitimacy of each request and if the funds are available they are happy to make the recommendation to the board.  

“I feel for the public schools,” Eychis said. “I wish we could contribute more, but it should be the city that funds the public schools. I don’t think it is up to the neighborhood council to fix the school’s problems.”

The Booster club currently pays for the school’s one and only school copier, which is used by all of the school’s teachers, and which costs about $8,000 a year to operate, Levicki-Lavi said.

“The school could pay for the copier,” she said. “But if they did pay for the copier, it would take away from [funds for] the education of the children.”
There is no printer at the school, Levicki-Lavi said, and many of the teachers hand-write handouts at home to come to school and copy it.

Having a printer in every classroom will decrease the cost and traffic at the school’s only copy machine, she said.

“It also ties into competing for new students,” Levicki-Lavi said. “When you are competing with private schools and charter schools that have the funding, parents want to know what we can do for their child in this tech age.”

Reach contributor Soyoung Kim here.



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