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Published on October 3rd, 2017 | by Tupelo Sullivan

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Teaching, learning and fundraising: the new standard for school programs

Samo is praised for offering a wide variety of electives and specialized programs for students interested in many different fields. However, a lack of funding for these classes makes faculty and staff resort to creative ways to keep their individual programs afloat.

The long-standing art program at Samo has a reputation for producing extremely talented artists, and, unlike some schools, has not been cut in order to help the school budget. However, art teachers are struggling to cover the cost of paints, pens and pencils with the $340 they receive for each class each semester.  Breaking that down comes out to $17 dollars a week to cover a class that is typically 20-30 students. That is less than $1 per week for each student, and only $11.33 per student for the entire semester.

This budget doesn’t come close to covering the needs of the program. To put the budget in perspective, a half-gallon of acrylic paint costs roughly $17, and just one set of high-quality, colored pencils clocks in at around $12. Materials like these are necessary for students to make their work, but get used up quickly. An art class can’t function properly without art supplies.

There is the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (SMMEF), which donates money to the art program based on the individual class size. However, this contribution is meant to be supplementary, not to take the place of the district’s funding. Therefore, SMMEF cannot cover all of the costs.

To deal with this problem, teachers use other methods to raise enough funds to power their classes. Art teacher Amy Bouse acknowledges the struggles associated with a lack of funding, and shares her many approaches to raise the budget.

“I have an Amazon wish list. I have a DonorsChoose. I have an adopt-a-classroom. I write grants. I have a GoFundMe for sketchbooks for my students. I want us to have these materials and I don’t quite understand why the arts are expected to do all of this on their own,” Bouse said.

Bouse, like so many other teachers, also distributes a handout at the beginning of the year asking for donations, as well as any supplies parents are able to give to the class. While these creative funding methods cover much of the necessary supplies that couldn’t otherwise be purchased, Bouse still needs to buy some supplies out of her own wallet.

“I always spend my own money, but, you know, I’m a teacher and I don’t have that much money. I know that other teachers do that too. This year I bought a bunch of supplies for the school year, and I just hope the donations will cover that,” Bouse said.

Other programs, like engineering, face similar issues. The engineering program, also called Project Lead The Way, is relatively new to Samo, and this year its budget is being lowered. Hence, the department has had to come up with new ways to raise money to support the projects students create.

“We formed a Project Lead The Way club to raise money, and they will be part of the bake sale and club row. We’re also going to be asking for donations from parents and anyone else willing to help,” engineering teacher Breanna Snyder said.

Despite the cuts being an obvious drawback to the program, engineering students and teachers are eager to raise money, and are not discouraged by the lack of funding. They feel confident that with their fundraising, the budget will not be an issue that hinders the development of the program.

“I think students are really into the projects and so they really want the program to do well. The students created the club and the students are making it so we can get donations because they want the program to do well,” Snyder said.

While some programs have to work with a very low budget, others don’t get any support from the school. Samo’s yearbook, known as the Nautilus, is a student-run class that operates during the school day. Although it is an official class, it doesn’t get funding whatsoever from the school.

Daniel Seizer (’18), co-editor of the Nautilus, explains that the class is technically designated as a lab, which therefore doesn’t require the school’s donations.

“12 of our 14 computers are the school’s property and we don’t own them, but two of them we own and have bought from our own funds. Other than that, the school gives us no money,” Seizer said.

The yearbook costs a significant amount to make and print, so they have to figure out different methods to raise money on their own. One of the main ways yearbook does this is by selling business ads. If local businesses wish to spread the word about their companies, they can purchase a page in the yearbook, and then any student who browses that page will see the ads. These run from $70-$450 dollars each, and every student enrolled in yearbook is required to sell one ad each semester. Sponsors can also donate money, and in return get an advertisement, recognition for their contribution in the yearbook and a copy of the Nautilus.

Lastly, the annual yearbooks need to be sold for a pretty steep price tag of $95 in order to make some additional money.

“The reason our book is so expensive is because we have no money, so we make a small amount of profit off of the books to help offset other costs,” Seizer said.

All of these strategies seem to be working. Although they incurred a debt from a few years ago, last year they cut their debt in half from the profit they made and hope to be completely debt-free by the end of this year. Yearbook’s adviser Amy Chapman has taken on the responsibility with her students to raise enough money for the class and, although the work is difficult, feels like in the end it is worth it.

“[Funding] can be really frustrating, but I feel like my students are getting really excellent business management skills that will serve them for life, [for example] having to close the funding gap to get a program into the black. While it’s a lot of extra work on my shoulders and extra time away from my children, it allows me to know more students and have some creative freedom, and that’s so valuable,” Chapman said.

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