9 SoCal schools cash in on California's Scholar Dollars program

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The California state treasurer handed checks ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to nine Southern California schools on Friday, providing funding for a new track and field complex, Google Chromebooks and a field trip to Yosemite, among other extracurricular activities.

The awards came from the new state program Scholar Dollars, which is funded through taxes generated by ScholarShare, California's college savings plan. 

Earlier this year, K-8 public and charter schools registered for the Scholar Dollars contest and asked parents to vote to give these schools a chance to win one of the 20 available grants, according to a statement from the California State Treasurer's Office. The schools with the most votes by the end of the contest won the grants.

The size of the grants vary relative to a school's size, State Treasurer John Chiang told KPCC. A total of 20 California schools from Los Angeles to Oakland got grants, he said. 

“California schools are challenged for additional monies just to fund basic services,” Chiang said. “So, every dollar helps to make sure children have greater opportunities.”

Chiang said that the Scholar Dollars program has proven successful in its inaugural year. In all, 390 schools across the state registered and over 411,000 parents and relatives cast votes, he said. 

At a ceremony at South Gate Middle School on Friday, eight of the nine Southern California schools accepted their checks as dancers celebrated the Cinco de Mayo holiday. 

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The eight SoCal schools at the ceremony were: 

  • South Gate Middle School
  • Alfred B. Nobel Charter Middle School
  • Thomas Starr King Middle School Film and Media Magnet 
  • Stephen M. White Middle School and STEAM Magnet
  • Luther Burbank Middle School
  • Judith F. Baca Arts Academy
  • Multnomah Street Elementary School
  • Magnolia Science Academy 7

One of the schools, Multnomah Street Elementary in L.A., will use its $10,000 grant to fund transportation for an annual field trip to a Yosemite science camp, according to its principal, Narajphan Asavasopon. The trip — a school tradition for two decades — was cut short of funding this year, she told KPCC.

The 430 student school managed to generate 17,500 votes from the community during the Scholar Dollars contest, according to Asavasopon. They won the grant and saved the trip from cancellation, she said.

“It was a testimony to believing and coming together and believing that all things are possible,” she added.

The effectiveness of the Scholar Dollars program will be assessed by a state board, with the program likely being scheduled again for 2018, Chiang said.

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