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MBEF Gives Record Grants Totaling $7.5 Million to MBUSD

Jul 14, 2020 09:34AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The Manhattan Beach Education Foundation (MBEF) has officially given $7.5 million in grant funding to the Manhattan Beach public schools - its largest annual contribution to date.

The new total is made up of $6.4 million that MBEF had already pledged to the Manhattan Beach Unified School District for 2020/21, plus $1.1 million in new grants approved by the MBEF board and adopted by the school board last week.

The additional $1.1 million is the result of a successful Manhattan Wine Auction event, plus other funds from MBEF. 

"This is a particularly challenging time for our schools. Between increased district expenses, reduced state revenue, and a global pandemic, ensuring enriched educational opportunities for our students is more and more difficult. But this community has proven, year after year, that it values high quality public education," Hilary Mahan, MBEF's executive director, told DigMB. "Because of the tremendous support of the Annual Appeal and more recently, the virtual Manhattan Wine Auction, our Board of Directors was in the position to grant $7.5 million towards educators and programs for the 2020-21 school year."

"We continue to be grateful for the incredible support for our schools from MBEF and the community," MBUSD Superintendent MIke Matthews told DigMB. "MBEF never gave up this year. Many thought they could never pull off a virtual wine auction, but their efforts, and the resulting remarkable success, brought back so many of our valuable employees this year. And this year, we need their support more than ever." 

Grants Restore Some Positions for 2020/21

The reductions that the district approved in May called for the layoff of 32.7 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. The new MBEF grants restore 6.8 FTE positions for the 2020/21 school year that focus on reducing class size, plus 0.4 additional FTE for the high school music program. (There could be potentially more positions restored for library resource specialists, once it is determined if school will be back on campus.)

Specifically, those positions supported by the new grant include:
  • 2.6 Additional FTE for Secondary Humanities and English classes, targeting lowering class sizes in grades 6-9
  • 0.2 Additional FTE for a Link Crew class period at MCHS
  • 2.0 additional FTE for Secondary Math classes, targeting lower class sizes in grades 6-9. (MBEF has also targeted funding from the paddle raise at the 2019 Wine Auction, which supported math instruction, to fund a Math TOSA (K-12) for one more year. This is separate from this grant.)
  • 2.0 additional FTE in elementary schools, targeting lower class sizes in 5th grade for elementary schools with class sizes of 35 or more
  • 0.4 additional FTE in high school music program
  • Full funding of all library resource specialists, once it is determined that schools is back in session on campus
  • $250,000 for professional development to support distance learning, including
    • A distance learning TOSA
    • Funding to pay for teacher support at each school
    • Online instructional materials
    • Other professional development funding support.

Need for Additional Funding Sources

Despite the good news of the MBEF grants, school officials continued to caution that difficult budget scenarios lie ahead and the Manhattan Beach schools need to look beyond MBEF for funding. 

"I celebrate our success this year, but we all know that the budget challenges we are facing in the next few years remind us that we need to look at additional, stable sources of funding,"  said Matthews. 

At last week's board meeting, MBUSD Board Chair Jennifer Cochran thanked MBEF for its generosity and for its flexibility in waiting to see if there would be additional cuts from the governor. Nevertheless, she said, "We need to figure out stronger funding mechanisms so that MBEF can get back to the business of enrichment."

Noting that the district was now considering another parcel tax, she added, "It's a crazy thing to think that in a place where we pay such high taxes, we don’t see the money coming back to our schools."

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