Saving school budgets in a recession

Successful bond campaigns begin with a vision, said Holt, who is the author of School Bond Success, soon to be released in its third edition. Also, the board’s decision to issue a bond must be unanimous; if even one board member opposes the motion, he said, that could sow the seeds of doubt among stakeholders.

Recruiting an active citizens group to support the bond measure also is a key to success. “Play it like the Amway model,” Holt said, meaning superintendents should let members of the community sell others on the idea.

One of the tasks of the citizens group should be to identify “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” voters and focus their attention accordingly. Don’t waste your time on the “no” voters, he advised; they’re unlikely to change their minds anyway. Instead, go after the “maybes.”

Donna Elder, an associate professor at National University in Los Angeles, recommended that school systems start an educational foundation to help bring in extra dollars for classroom projects.

“Starting a K-12 foundation raises revenues–but it also raises friends,” Elder said, noting that educational foundations can improve communication between a district and its community and build stakeholder support.

She added: “The nice thing about the money raised by [community] foundations is that there are fewer strings attached.”

U.S. citizens gave $306 billion to charities in 2007, Elder said. Educational organizations received $43 billion of this money, or about 14 percent. Education was the No. 2 recipient of charitable donations, behind only religion. Some 70 percent of Americans give money each year to causes that are important to them.

Though most donations still go to colleges and universities and not K-12 schools, this trend is starting to change, Elder said. School-based foundations have experienced strong growth throughout this decade, and three years ago the National Association of School Foundations launched.

“The Greatest Generation is about to pass on its wealth,” Elder noted–and an important question for schools is: How might they stand to benefit?

Resource development has been a long-standing practice in higher education, and K-12 schools can learn a lot from colleges and universities. As in getting a bond issue passed, developing relationships with what Elder called “key communicators”–the citizens in a community who are vocal in raising support–can pay huge dividends for schools.

(Editor’s note: For more real-time coverage of this year’s AASA conference in San Francisco Feb. 19-21, visit the AASA Conference Information Center page at eSN Online:


American Association of School Administrators

National Joint Powers Alliance

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