Reimagining Education

School Districts Must Rethink Funding and Resources

With an economy in recession and real estate, and other, tax revenues to state and local coffers dwindling, public school districts must begin to think of innovative ways to procure funding. Gone are the days of sitting back and expecting never ending funding increases from government entities. Here are days of partnerships with businesses and private foundations to see that schools have the resources needed to achieve what should be their #1 goal, educating children.

Unfortunately, some districts have resorted to filing lawsuits to try to obtain more money instead of bringing new ideas to their funding streams. You need not look outside of the state’s borders to find two cases where districts have lost initial rounds of lawsuits attempting to increase funding through the courts. Two entities representing multiple school districts have sued the State of Missouri contending that the state’s funding formula is inadequate. The districts lost the suit at the trial level and have appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. According to the Columbia Missourian “The long-running lawsuit has cost more than $5 million in public funds, with the state spending $2 million to defend the law and the various school groups spending well over $3 million to challenge it.”

A more recent failed attempt to stop funding losses through the courts was in Jackson County, MO where 11 school districts sued the county over property tax assessments. The lawsuit was dismissed and one participating district Superintendent has stated “right now the lawsuit is pretty much done.

So now that it seems clear that the traditional ways of school funding are no longer working, what are some of the solutions? Working with private foundations is one option that seems to be developing. In Tampa, FL one school district has been asked by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to submit a proposal to execute a program designed to increase teacher effectiveness. According to the linked story, “districts in Memphis, Omaha, and Pittsburgh received similar requests, along with a group of Los Angeles charter schools.” Public school partnerships with private foundations have also had remarkable success in Chattanooga, TN, where scores at targeted schools out gained 90% of other Tennessee schools.

School partnerships with local businesses are also a growing trend and one that should be heavily considered. Denver Public Schools started the School Partners Program with the help of Qwest Communications and have now moved the program into the school district’s offices full time. The School Partners Program has expanded from 20 schools in its first year to 61 as of last November. About 50 businesses are involved, some of which partner with more than one school.

School funding is just one area where reform and innovative approaches like these are sure to continue to grow. School districts must look to these opportunities and partnerships in order to thrive, and possibly even survive. Failing to actively seek out funding and resources outside of the government and taxes is a formula for failure resulting in children being left behind.

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