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The school aid stand

Scott Jagow May 15, 2009

When states and counties cut their budgets, school districts usually lose funding. And of course, that’s happening across the country right now. I’m sure there’s plenty of screaming at school board and PTA meetings, but some schools and communities are focusing their energy in a different way. They’re raising the money themselves.

Case in point: Coralwood School in Decatur, Georgia. Coralwood is a cool school for several reasons. It’s the only public school in Georgia dedicated to special needs children 3-6 years old. The kids with special needs learn in classrooms together with other children.

Plus, Coralwood has its own foundation with a Director of Development whose full-time job is to raise money for the school from the community. That’s pretty unusual. Most schools or districts rely on parent volunteers to do fundraising. Even the most dedicated parents don’t have time to do the job properly.

The reason I know all this stuff is that Coralwood’s Director of Development, Jennifer Sedlack, is a good friend. She got in touch to tell me that today, Coralwood opened a new accessible nature trail next to the campus. The local school board wouldn’t pay for it, so Coralwood’s foundation raised the money on its own — a third from individuals, a third from companies and a third from grants. Here’s what Jennifer says about it:

“We’re taking a private school approach and applying it to public schools. Why can’t we have those things private schools have? Rather than waiting for the golden egg from the public school system, we make it happen ourselves.”

Jennifer says more public schools are starting their own foundations, but they still mostly rely on volunteers. I read about a new one this week in Northern California — Save Our Schools Castro Valley:

“We’re not going to just throw our hands up and be victims of these cuts,” said (Allen) Mueller, who serves as the organization’s president and is a commercial real estate consultant.

“We are looking to change the mind-set of the community,” he said. “We are entitled and should expect (public school) funding to come from the state, but the fact is, the state can’t be relied on.”

In fact, as I pointed out a couple months ago, some states want to spend stimulus money that was designated to retain teachers on other things. The frustration level is so high, that in Oregon, a group called Stand for Children, encouraged people to literally just be noisy about it:

I ask you, between 1030 AM and 1045 AM on May 15, to take a break from work, go out into the street (hopefully with a few of your co-workers), and just make some noise. Bring a pot, pan, whistle, horn or any noise-making device to work on Friday, May 15th, and at the pre-determined time, in every part of the state, head out of your offices and Make Noise For Needed Basic Services.

I have a feeling hiring a Director of Development might be more effective.

Here’s a pic of the new Coralwood trail:

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