Alumni Can Save School Programs

For decades, state aid and local property taxes were enough to pay for a basic education as well as extracurricular activities.

Anyone who follows school budgets knows those days are long gone.

Being part of an extracurricular activity now means fundraising, whether it’s youth raising money from events like tag days in front of local stores or the various sales that make their way throughout the area or booster clubs holding fundraisers and operating concession stands.

Perhaps it’s time for schools to begin reaching out to alumni.

We note the local success of the Southwestern Schools Education Foundation, an organization that has leveraged its private fundraising efforts with school district resources to pay for athletic complex improvements at Southwestern and the electronic signs outside Southwestern Central School. We also note the recent attempt by Jason Hinkley, a Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School graduate, to hold a golf tournament in his Florida residence to help raise money for technology at Maple Grove.

We often read about parents attending school board meetings pleading for board members to protect a favored program or elective program. Parents should understand school board members don’t want to entertain cuts to art, music, sports or other beloved programs. Those board members oversee a budget with certain fixed costs – contracts that govern pay to teachers and administrators, state-mandated pension contributions and the same rising utility costs that put a pinch on everyone’s wallets. At the same time, revenues are either stagnant or decreasing and the ability to simply raise the tax revenue needed to pay for everybody’s pet programs has been curtailed by the state’s 2 percent tax cap.

Public schools don’t often tap into their potentially lucrative pool of alumni. We note, particularly, athletes who could help support endowments for sports booster programs or former high school musicians who could help support their alma mater’s band or theater programs. Colleges tap into this support pipeline regularly to help support programs ranging from debate teams to science programs.

Program cuts are the rule instead of an exception in our state’s current financial climate, but that doesn’t mean parents or alumni have to accept the elimination of programs.