School districts across the country are grappling with less funding to go around, but one of the largest districts in Florida and the country may have found a solution to its financial woes. The Orange County Public Schools district has launched an aggressive and comprehensive fundraising effort to pump more money into its cash-strapped schools. From Fuel My School to 5K runs, this school district is finding ways to pay for the type of learning experience it wants for its students.
In Search of Money
Orange County Public Schools recently announced ambitious fundraising efforts with a goal of $26 million in sight. According to the Orlando Sentinel, in addition to the fundraising plan, the district has an idea of how they want to spend the money they raise, citing a number of priorities where they would focus funding. Those areas included:
- Addition of a staff nurse to every Orange County school
- Affordable computers for low-income students with their sights set on college
- Tutors for every child who had the lowest scores on standardized state tests
- All-day pre-kindergarten programs for more effective early childhood education
- Literacy programs, including reading clubs for students
- Addition of more STEM opportunities at every grade level
- Additional centers for students requiring a daily location during suspensions
- Expansion of the City Year “Near Peer” mentoring program
While $26 million is the estimate to fully fund all of these programs, district officials are expecting to introduce the funding – and the new and expanded programs – in phases. The district will also be soliciting local entities – businesses, sports teams, and foundations – for ongoing support rather than one-time donations. This effort would help to ensure the programs would be sustainable over the long term.
While this new fundraising effort is still in the very preliminary stages, Orange County has already proven itself as a district able to raise the money it needs to give students the kind of education it wants. While soliciting businesses for donations is one effective way the district has been able to raise money in the past, it is not the only way district officials have found to increase the revenue side of their annual budget.
Shopping Meets Fundraising
One of the easiest fundraisers launched by Orange County this year was participation in a national program known as Fuel My School. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Fuel, My School is a non-profit organization started by the mothers of school-age children. The program allows parents and community members to earn money for their local schools by shopping at the participating stores in the area. Find stores by clicking on the school’s online mall and locating the specific retailers they want to shop at. A portion of all purchases goes directly to that school, while parents do not have to pay any additional cost to make their purchases.
Foundation Grants Bring in Big Bucks
Grants are an excellent way for school districts to receive big sums of cash for dramatic improvements and widespread programs within their schools. The Grant and Fundraising News website reports that the Annika Foundation awarded one such grant to Orange County Public Schools earlier this year. This organization provided the district with a $100,000 grant to expand physical education in 20 elementary schools throughout Orange County. Individual schools had to apply for their portion of the grant funding. The funding was offered in partnership with SPARK, the leading physical education program for schools nationwide. SPARK staff was responsible for choosing the schools that would receive funding.
Winter Fun Run Set for February
In another effort to promote physical fitness while earning money for local schools, Orange County has announced the third annual Eagle Flight 5K Fun for February 2013. This run is sponsored by the Edgewater High School Parent Teacher Student Association and provides funding for any club, sport, or class that wants to participate. According to the Orlando Sentinel, those who participate receive 50 percent of the registration fees and sponsorships designated for their group.
Getting Local Businesses Involved
In addition to smaller fundraising efforts and larger grants, Orange County Public Schools fully uses its partnerships with area businesses and other local entities to raise money for schools. WFTV reports that Fern Creek Elementary School in Orange County has used funding from local businesses to provide smart boards for classrooms. The addition of the smart boards has already shown to be beneficial for students, as the school has received a grade of an “A” or “B” for academic performance in recent years.
That is no small feat, considering many students at Fern Creek come from low-income families, and many are even homeless. In addition to the smart boards, the school has received business donations that have been used to stock the school’s pantry. The principal of Fern Creek, Patrick Galatowitsch, told WFTV that it is important for his students to feel safe and cared for, particularly in light of the difficult situations for some of the families at his school. The principal is now working to raise another $100,000, which could be used to purchase smart boards for all the students, and maybe even a few Kindle e-readers.
School funding has historically been a point of contention between lawmakers and public school officials. Challenges in providing sufficient money to schools have become more pronounced in recent years, with the economic slowdown experienced by the entire country. Now, Orange County Public Schools are a shining example of how a school district can find additional revenue through its ambitious fundraising efforts.
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