Janesville36.4°

Save Janesville Schools has raised just $68,165 so far

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
September 26, 2011
— In the first year of its plan to help the hard-hit Janesville School District retain school programs and staff, the grassroots fundraising group known as Save Janesville Schools is having limited success, its organizers say.

The group originally set a goal to raise $6 million over the next two years as the school board made $9 million in cuts this year to shore up a budget gap as another $9 million shortfall looms next year.


Save Janesville Schools Co-Chairwoman Shari Faber said the group has received a total of $68,165 in donations since starting fundraising earlier this year. And so far it has awarded a grant of $64,000 to the district.


And while it already has pledges lined up for next year, organizers say donations have been tepid compared to the group’s hopes.


Save Janesville Schools held a benefit pasta dinner Sunday that organizers said drew about 90 people. The total raised wasn’t available Sunday, but the dinner cost $7-10 per plate, and Faber said some people attending gave extra donations.


Faber called the turnout for the dinner “very disappointing,” and in an Q & A interview conducted Sunday told the Gazette about Save Janesville Schools’ mission, its struggles and its plans.


Q: So far, Save Janesville Schools has donated about $64,000 back to the district. Compared to your goals, that’s not a lot. Are you on track to meet fundraising goals?
A: No, Faber said. Donations have been slower than anticipated, partly because money is tight and there’s competition from lots of other local charities.

“I’ve seen donor fatigue. A lot of people are getting tapped out, because a lot of other local groups are doing fundraising. There’s not as much money out there. People are getting weary of everyone asking for donations,” Faber said.


Faber said the group plans to continue its efforts, but it’s struggled to organize large-scale fundraising events like Sunday’s dinner because it’s hurting for volunteers. It started with a large core of volunteers and assembled a board, but volunteer involvement has tapered off.


Q: Some residents have said they won’t donate to Save Janesville Schools because they’re unsure where their money would go. Where does the money go?
A: Donations to Save Janesville Schools are channeled into a special fund through the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, a tax-exempt charity partnering with the group. The money is used to restore and retain programs within the school district.

This month, the group awarded a $64,000 grant that, in part, added staffing time for aides in each of the district’s 12 elementary schools.


Q: Who decides how to spend money from the donations?
A: The school board and the administration prioritizes needs within the district, and the money is used accordingly.
Q: To address the district’s financial woes, the board is considering closing a school and increasing taxes. Meanwhile, Superintendent Karen Schulte has proposed giving non-union employees a pay raise, and the district wants the teachers union to reopen its contract to save money. Where does Save Janesville Schools stand on these issues?
A: Faber said Save Janesville Schools tries to remain nonpartisan, although it has heard from people who believe the organization is pro-union, while others say they believe it is not working hard enough to bring back union jobs.

“A lot of people have tried to politicize our group and put us on one side or the other. We’ve tried to stay neutral. We’re business people, we’re homeowners, we’re parents. Our only goal it to maintain quality schools in this community,” said Faber.


WHAT IS SAVE JANESVILLE SCHOOLS?

Save Janesville Schools is a grassroots community group including residents, businesses and school district employees who are trying to raise as much as $6 million over the next two years to help retain school employees and programs in the face of anticipated budget shortfalls in the Janesville School District.


Donations to Save Janesville Schools go to the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, a tax-exempt charity that receives, invests and distributes the money to the school district. The school board and administration decides how to use the money, but must apply it to positions and programs that best support district students.


To Help: Donations can be mailed to the Community Foundation, 26 S. Jackson St., Janesville, online at cfsw.org. For more information, visit savejanesvilleschools.org, email savejanesvilleschools@gmail.com or call (608) 758-0883.

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