Editor’s note: Stacy Boyd is the Founder & CEO of The Savvy Source for Parents, an online destination that helps parents navigate their children’s early education years. It’s also the organization behind Schoola, a website that helps raise money for schools based on the group coupon model.
The holiday season is upon us. Many things demand our time and attention, but parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles all have finding the right gifts for their children and brightening their spirits at the top of their holiday to-dos.
The troubling irony of this focus is that during the rest of the year, our kids are getting short-changed. Americans are worried about jobs, healthcare, and the housing market, but it’s our children who are really getting the short end of the stick.
In the past four years, over 80% of the schools across America have cut funding, some by more than 20%. Those cuts have dramatically impacted opportunities for our children and schools and districts have reacted in various ways: Some have increased class size dramatically while others have cut whole programs like music, art, drama, and physical education. Perhaps most stunning of all are the 120 districts (so far) that now have school just four days a week to reduce costs.
What makes the substantial reduction of resources for our children’s schools likely to be bad for America is that, even at the higher 2008 funding levels, our schools were not performing as well as they need to. Recent declines in SAT test results make clear that American schools have sagging performance when measured against the past, or worse, against our competition. Even our best-performing kids are sinking further into the middle of the pack when compared to their peers internationally.
While resources are tighter than before, America can ill-afford to be cutting funding to the one thing that holds the greatest promise for our country’s growth and prosperity: Education. Yet the forces at play in legislatures across the U.S. offer little hope the tide will turn in the months and years ahead, perpetuating American students’ “race to the bottom.”
Parents and community groups try to fill the gaps with fundraisers but are scrambling to do so. That’s why it’s important to find new and innovative ways across sectors – government, non-profit, and corporate – to fund our children’s future.
Some parents have teamed up to create Schoola, a self-service platform used by local businesses to partner with schools on discounted products and services, with up to 50% of the proceeds going back to the schools. It’s a win for parents because they save on things they love, a win for businesses because they receive authentic cause-based marketing, and a win for our schools because it helps raise the desperately-needed funds. Currently, the program is on tap to raise as much as $100 million in funds for schools.
Schoola is not likely to be the only solution to get America’s children the schools they need and deserve, but it’s a start. It’s a way to engage families and communities to make our children and their schools a higher economic priority.
Forces much more pernicious and longer-lasting than Hurricane Sandy have been lashing away at schools all across America.
Parents now need to join with parents and enlist grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends to find new and innovative ways across sectors -- government, non-profit and corporate -- for funding for our children’s future.