What role does financial support play at our public school? How should
we think about funding education in our lives, in the lives of our children, and in public schools? How do we value an education?

It's more important to our school district that our families work together than it is to a conventional district. Our community of support is the people who have walked through the doors of Great River School. (We are our own independent school district - good old #4105-07!) A conventional school district can ask for a formal tax levy their neighbors to support the students who make the local neighborhood stronger - and every neighbor in that district pitches in together.

I think in these moments of Lynne Twyst, an activist who focuses on aligning values and resources of philanthropists with communities. Instead of "giving to" communities with passive charity, a giver thinks about the values they want to support in the world, and joins in partnership with the cause. It's an approach that makes giving an exchange of value- the giver values the cause, and the cause has a depth and richness of experience to offer the giver. This is what I am asking of our community - to align a gift to the school with our values of holistic human development, engaged learning, and a more peaceful world. 

Our school district is a pubic, independent, civil institution. One difference - district 4105 geographically ends at the veggie garden to the South, the cedar fence to the North, our chicken coop to the East, robotics & bike shop on the West. Our families and alumni pitch in with time, talents, *and* financial support for the mission and vision of our school. 

I'll tell you a story below of how our school budget works,
and why your gift is essential to the unique opportunities our school offers. Our families are the bedrock of our school. While we cannot ask for our neighbors to pitch in with a levy or a tax, we do rely on our families to pitch in for the life of our school.

I will make clear -we are a public school. We are free for every enrolled student, without fees for education. 
I will make clear - we are a diverse school with families who give in time and energy, and only some families have the resources to give financially. We rely on both kinds of gifts to keep our school alive and thriving for all of our students. 
Last, I will make clear - we rely on the essential financial support from our community that makes up approximately 2% of our operating budget each year. This stream of revenue is the single biggest source outside of state funding. 

How does it work? 

 Our revenue comes from the state, approximately eighty-seven cents for every average dollar that a conventional district receives per pupil in Minnesota. And we make the most of those eighty seven cents! We focus on operating programs that best serve the developmental needs of our students. If you think of 87 pennies as our whole school budget, I can tell you how every one of them counts.  44 of those pennies go to the amazing teaching faculty at our school. 30 cents go to the costs for leasing, heating, lighting, transporting, insuring and basic operating of the school building and required overhead. That leaves us 13 cents for the learning materials, for the field trips, for the key experiences, and for the support that students need on their way to development and full realization of their potential. We use our 87 cents wisely, and it allows us to focus spending on students, on developmental opportunities, and on the essential characteristics of a Montessori education. While most districts struggle to offer creative, engaged environments for students, we thrive on shrewd budgeting so that our students can expect innovative learning environments. 

This is where our pact with families enters the equation. I'm asking families and our community to pitch in two cents. In this case, the two cents is an additional bump that allows us to operate with key experiences, rich field trips and community experts as an essential part of building community and engaging in the world. 

The two cents from families is a 2% budget goal that allows us to guarantee that we will have rich, community building experiences every year.  It's a modest goal, and it allows us to plan innovative experience a part of the basic programming at Great River. It's a situation where many hands contributing makes reaching our goal very easy. And, it requires your participation.  Every family giving *something* in exchange with the school is my goal for this year - that we get participation in supporting this rich environment for student development. 

What do families give?

In real dollars, the two cents is a $90,000 fundraising goal, and we can get there easily this year with full participation. If we broke this goal down to a per-student average, it's quite affordable - $1.30 per school day per kid would meet our minimum goals. Our generous community has found that an average of $300-$600 per student per year is a landmark for giving that allows the school to plan confidently for experiences each year.  We benefit from the generosity of our families who can afford to give more than average, and we also benefit from the families who give $5 per month, or participate in any way possible.

Alumni and alumnus families give. We rely on the gifts of you - our partner in community - to assure that we meet this year's goal *and* that we can go deeper into planning for furthering our experiences in the future. Please, consider what you give, and how you can align your value for the student experience with a commitment to support the mission and vision of your Great River School.







Posted
AuthorSam O'Brien