There’s never enough money for everything schools and districts want to provide for their students and teachers, and as budgets become tighter many Kentucky public school districts are finding help from education foundations.
The Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools held a black-tie fundraiser in July 2018 to honor
Houston Hogg, an alumnus who was one of the first African-Americans to play football at the
University of Kentucky. The sold-out event raised more than $40,000. (Photo provided by the
Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools)
“It’s an incredible asset to the school district,” said Matt Robbins, superintendent of Daviess County Schools where the Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools provides teacher grants, summer learning programs, helps students become the first in their family to go to college and more. “Without question there are many things that would not have been achievable otherwise. We know that it’s had an impact on students’ lives.”
A recent Kentucky School Boards Association survey of district finance officers showed that at least 47 of the 173 Kentucky schools districts have affiliated non-profit associations. And many more districts have considered or are considering forming one.
Across the U.S., there are more than 6,500 school foundations in 14,500 school districts, according to the National School Foundation Association, which has 13 Kentucky public education foundations as members.
And those numbers are increasing. School foundations are one of the fastest growing types of nonprofit organizations, according to Nonprofit Quarterly.
In KSBA’s survey, several districts said they have considered or are considering forming one. Some, such as Shelby County and Marion County, have recently launched foundations.
The Shelby County Education Foundation, which formed last year with a $20,000 donation from Citizens Union Bank, plans to fund scholarships, teacher needs and offer more opportunities for students.
In Marion County, two board of education members created the Marion County Education Foundation, which launched last fall and will give out grants to teachers this spring.
Board member Carrie Truitt, who has a background in non-profit fundraising, consulted with 10 school districts as she and fellow school board member Kaelin Reed, an attorney, worked to launch the foundation.
“We didn’t want to make any mistakes that someone had made before,” said Truitt, who is the foundation’s chairwoman. “We wanted to hit the ground running without having to experience any pitfalls.”
They created sponsorship packages, presented them to the business community and signed several sponsors to four-year deals, she said. That enabled the foundation to fund grants for teachers who want to do something innovative in their classroom.
When the first grants are awarded this spring, the foundation plans to make it a celebration in the classroom, something Truitt learned from Elizabethtown Independent’s foundation.
“They had balloons and foundation board members, and we’re offering our sponsors the opportunity to come and visit the winning classrooms also,” she said. Truitt hopes the celebrations will help parents and the wider community learn about the foundation.
Eventually the grants, which are competitive and screened by the district and a committee, will take the place or supplement the funds teachers had been getting from crowdfunding websites, she said.
The foundation’s bylaws purposely required two school board members and the superintendent to make sure the foundation’s goals are aligned with the district’s, Truitt said.
“The purpose of education foundations is to support the district, not directly and not in the way that taxpayers do, but indirectly,” she said.