San Carlos Charter Learning Center

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The challenge: raising funds to keep the doors open

California's very first charter school, the San Carlos Charter Learning Center (CLC) has consistently earned high API and AYP scores during each of its 16 years of operation. Despite such an outstanding reputation and an excellent relationship with its authorizing district board, however, the CLC was facing potential closure. The state budget cuts threatened the K-8 elementary school's financial stability.

At the same time, the Charter Learning Center's campus librarian and two part-time Spanish language instructors were facing the chopping block. The PE program was also slated for cutbacks. The state budget cuts were imperiling a first-class public education system, potentially transforming it into a third-world education system where students learn only reading, writing and math.

The solution: "Run to Sacramento" Fundraiser

When it became clear in December 2008 that the looming education funding reductions would direly impact the Charter Learning Center, a teacher presented her idea of a relay run fundraiser to the school's Fundraising Committee. The plan was to arrive in Sacramento the morning before the May 19 Special Election. The run would symbolize the great urgency and need for adequate public school funding, and serve as a request for Californians to vote in favor of Propositions 1A, 1B, and 1C to funnel money toward education.

With only three months to plan, the southern route through Traci, Lodi and Hayward was selected for the runners to take from San Carlos to Sacramento. At the same time, an informational Web site about the run was developed to attract donations from near and far. In addition, the Committee identified how the greater community could get involved with the run via sponsorships. Sponsorships were modeled after a walk-a-thon, with some runners sponsored per mile and others receiving a flat amount from donors. Some runners even created a training Web site tracking how many miles they ran a day, which attracted additional sponsors.

In their P.E. classes, teachers incorporated the run into the class curriculum. The goal was to help the students learn how to use their bodies and learning strengths to make a statement on behalf of a cause they believe in.

The school engaged in a widespread publicity effort that encompassed social networking via the CLC's Web site, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as more traditional print and broadcast media.

The results

Around 350 supporters gathered at Burton Park in downtown San Carlos at noon on Saturday, May 16, to see off the runners as they began the 150-mile trek. Participants included teachers, parents and community members; 25 percent were students. Most runners ran in groups of two to six, averaging a distance of eight to ten miles. No one ran the entire 150 miles. At times, participants ran in excess of 100 degree-heat, even in the evenings. At the end of each relay leg of the run, a baton was passed which contained a scroll on which were written the names of all of the runners.

Over 40 participants ran the first two miles out of San Carlos and the last two miles into Sacramento, including many students, some as young as six. This large, unified crowd was met on the steps of the State Capitol by the Chair of the San Carlos District Board, and approximately 200 supporters, where an event was held celebrating the runners and encouraging support for Propositions 1A, 1B, and 1C.

As a result of the school's extensive publicity campaign, supporters started contacting the CLC to learn how to participate in or donate to the fundraiser. Donations poured in from countries as distant as Mexico, Costa Rica, India and France, amounting to fifteen percent of the total amount raised. Plus, so many individuals wanted to run a leg of the relay that some had to be turned away!

The Charter Learning Center had aimed to raise $100,000 via the run, and exceeded this amount by $32,000! 45 percent went to boost the CLC's reserve to three percent; the remaining 55 percent helped restore the school's part-time librarian and Spanish program, and maintain the PE program at its current funding level. As a result of the run, the CLC was able to keep its doors open without reducing any programs or cutting any staff.

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