Private donations for public schools suggested

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January 23, 2010
— Janesville public school officials hope that the kind of charitable giving that has sustained colleges and private schools will help them bridge budget gaps in the years ahead.

The Janesville School Board is scheduled to discuss the hiring of a fundraiser and the establishment of a foundation when it meets Tuesday.

The fundraiser would be paid with a percentage of the money raised, according to a proposal from Superintendent Karen Schulte. The fundraiser would receive 10 percent of the first $500,000 raised and 5 percent of anything after that.

Schulte’s memo describes an independent, nonprofit organization called the School District of Janesville Excellence in Education Foundation.

“The foundation will provide new and expanded opportunities for Janesville students; recognize excellent teachers, staff and students; and build strong, supportive relationships between the community and our schools,” the memo states.

“The foundation is particularly interested in building the arts, promoting diverse staff, expanding programs for gifted children and enhancing the quality of life for children of poverty.”

School board President DuWayne Severson endorsed the idea.

“This is a great community, as shown by the recent outpouring for the school district and unions to supply Christmas meals to needy families, and even though our community is going through a tough transition, there are still good-hearted, generous people, and I think there are individuals who want to donate to certain projects within the district,” Severson said.

“You’ve got to start somewhere, and I think this is a great first step,” Severson added.

The Appleton School District is one of the few public school districts in Wisconsin that has its own foundation.

The Appleton Education Foundation has awarded grants of more than $1.5 million since its inception about 12 years ago, according to its Web site. That’s more than $125,000 a year.

At a previous discussion, board member Tim Cullen suggested that donors could target their giving to a particular school or program.

Schulte’s memo lists a number of reasons for creating the foundation, including:

n An aging population nationwide is less willing to support continued tax increases for education.

n Education was the second-biggest recipient of charitable dollars in the United States in 2006, after religion.

n “Without a foundation and its presence in the community, donors often overlook the school and its financial needs.”

n An organization named Giving USA reports a trend for donors to switch their contributions from higher education to K-12 schools.

n “Intergenerational wealth transfer” over the next two to three decades is expected to yield trillions of dollars nationwide.

The board will not be asked to take action on the idea Tuesday, but Severson said he expects that Schulte will want to get started soon.


The Janesville School Board meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St. Agenda items include:

- Possible action on the repayment of Wisconsin Retirement System liability.

- Action on a proposal to buy software to allow online registration for summer school, not to exceed $40,000.

- A report and possible action on the use of drug-sniffing dogs in schools.

- A closed session to discuss two expulsions and to discuss teacher-contract negotiations.

The meeting is scheduled to be shown live on Janesville cable channels 96 and 993.

Board President DuWayne Severson said he is hoping to have a new system in place to warn those addressing the board that their 3-minute time limit is running out. Severson has been abruptly interrupting speakers to announce “one minute!”

Other board members, including Peter D. Severson, asked for a change, DuWayne Severson said: “Folks are saying perhaps we can look at a little softer approach.”

DuWayne Severson said he will probably hold up signs to signal the passage of time and will consider using a light-warning.

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