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Lawsuit decision could mean fewer funds for school’s music

If self-funding stops, so will trips, music director says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit decision that says students shouldn’t have to pay to participate in school activities could mean fewer opportunities for the Placer High School music program. David Lawrenson, director of music at the school, said there are no mandatory fees to be in the program. “We ask students to donate $100, but that is not required,” Lawrenson said. “If there were no donations from the parents in the community the music department would just keel over.” Lawrenson said the fee for one performance, such as an out-of-town trip, can add up to $3,000 to participate, rent buses and purchase all the music required. Lawrenson said the school is able to allocate $1,000 to the program each year that goes toward things like instrument repair, substitutes, office supplies and more. The Placer Music Boosters raise about $20,000 per year. Student donations are not as high as they once were, Lawrenson said. “It’s getting worse and worse,” he said. “We used to have 75 percent (of) our students donate and we are down to 40 percent.” With the ACLU decision, Lawrenson said if students can’t fundraise for their trips and parents or students won’t donate to the program, it could affect the number of trips the program can take during the year, including the annual spring trip. The program’s most recent trip was to Anaheim for the Heritage Festival in which the wind ensemble, jazz band, concert band and concert choir won several awards. “If our community students and parents continue wanting to self-fund the trip, then we can continue to have trips,” Lawrenson said. “But at the point where parents and students don’t want to self-fund the trips, then the trips won’t happen any more.” Placer High principal Peter Efstathiu said students are told at the beginning of the year that the spring trip costs $700, but the school will no longer be allowed to require students to pay for the trip because it is a school affiliated event. Efstathiu said future funding of the trip is a concern. “I’m pretty sure the school doesn’t have $7,000 for 100 kids to go down there,” Efstathiu said. “The only way it goes off without a hitch is for parents to give a donation. So, where will the school come up with the funds to pay for that trip?” Lawrenson said all trips the program takes could be in jeopardy if fundraising and donations don’t happen. Efstathiu said he doesn’t see the school’s $1,000 annual funding for the program changing in the future. Efstathiu said the Placer Music Boosters is very important in keeping the music program alive at the school. “They are a big savior for the program as well,” he said. Karen Holt, co-fundraising chair for the Placer Music Boosters, said the group doesn’t fund the spring trip because it is optional, and she doesn’t think the club would plan any extra fundraisers to make sure the trip still happens. Holt said boosters’ money is for competitions every one is required to go on as well as things like band equipment. Lawrenson said the boosters also pay for the piano accompanist, uniforms and the drum line coach. Those interested in donating to the music program can donate to Placer Music Boosters. For more information, visit placermusic.org. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com