What is an education foundation?
Response from “Ask Former Trustees – Clear Creek ISD Chapter”: Joanna Baleson, Ken Baliker, Jennifer Broddle, Bob Davee, Glenn Freedman, Ann Hammond, Charlie Pond, Page Rander, Dee Scott, Win Weber
An education foundation is a nonprofit organization (IRS designation 501(c)3) that supports a school district’s mission or some associated education-related cause. For purposes of this Q&A, the discussion is limited to the foundations that support a school district’s mission. According to CauseIQ, a national nonprofit consulting company, Texas boasts 2,607 education foundations, of which about 700 support a single school district.
How does a foundation support a school district?
There are three main ways that a foundation supports a school district, although each foundation varies in what it does and how it accomplishes its objectives:
1. Raise money to augment the district’s resources, usually by targeting specific needs or initiatives.
2. Raise awareness about the district through communications, community involvement, events, awards, and networking.
3. Raise support for the district through advocacy and various forms of community and advocacy activities.
What is the relationship between a school district and the education foundation that supports the district?
The most obvious answer is that a school district in Texas is a public agency governed by a locally-elected board of trustees, answerable to the Texas Education Agency, and subject to The Texas Legislature’s ability to regulate school policies and finances.
On the other hand, an education foundation is a nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors. Hence, they are separate entities with separate organizational structures, but united by one goal – the successful education of students.
In practice, it is more complicated, as relationships depend on many factors. Each district’s foundation has its own history, personnel, issues to address, and ways to address them.
Nevertheless, each foundation should be aligned with the district’s vision, mission, and strategic directions – with an emphasis on student academic success and teaching excellence. The foundations often provide funds for programs, projects, and people that are not part of the district’s budget.
Why does a school district need any additional money?
A school district’s budget is primarily salaries and benefits for its staff. Added to that are all the regulatory expenses, transportation and facilities costs, food service expenses, debt service, utilities, and other expenses necessary just to provide students with their education. There is little available for innovation, new programs, enhancements, or other means of just keeping up with student needs, the changing times, or the expectations of the public.
Furthermore, according to a 2020 survey of about 4,000 teachers (www.adoptaclassroom.org), teachers spent an average of $745 of their own money on instructional supplies in 2020, plus an additional $252 for distance learning materials.
For many educational foundations, therefore, their support starts with teachers’ needs and aspirations for improving instruction and enhancing learning. Foundations bridge the gap between available funds and educational needs. Foundations are an increasingly important parts of a community’s support for public education.