When the Janesville International Education Program started, organizers hoped the program would help Janesville students become “global citizens,” and, at the same time, bring in some revenue for the school district.
Although the Janesville School District has been successful in creating students who have a better understanding of the world, the amount of future revenue isn’t certain, nor is international enrollment guaranteed.
On Tuesday, the Janesville School Board will take another look at the international program’s proposed $1.2 million budget for the 2019-2020 school year.
All of it is funded by tuition money from students who attend school or the program-sponsored camps in the summer, spring and fall. No local, state or federal tax dollars are used.
Good news, bad news
Robert Smiley, chief information officer for the school district, also oversees the international program.
At board meeting Aug. 27, Smiley said 100% of the international students who attended high school here were accepted into American colleges and universities.
That’s the goal, he said. The majority of students come from China, and a degree from an American college or university is considered a prestigious accomplishment. Janesville’s record with students makes it popular in China.
However, the trade war between the two countries has changed things. Visas, which are granted by U.S. officials, have been more and more difficult to get, even for elementary school students who want to come here for camps.
In early June, the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued a travel warning about coming the United States. Part of the warning was connected to the increased amount of gun violence, Smiley told the board.
Still, 32 Chinese students will be attending Craig High School this year, just one fewer student than last year. Enrollment for camps is down more significantly.
Enrollment is crucial. It supports the program’s small staff, travel expenses and other items. In addition, tuition money pays for Janesville students to study abroad.
For many students, it’s an opportunity they wouldn’t have without money from the international program.
Finally, revenue from the program goes into the district’s general fund. The money can be used to pay for anything, Smiley wrote in an email to the Gazette. In the past, it has been used to add teaching staff for children with behavioral problems and other specialists the district couldn’t otherwise afford.
The revenue from the 2018-19 school year was $239,084 Smiley said.
The proposed budget for 2019-20 includes $70,000 for local students to travel internationally. But the final amount will likely be less: only $31,892, according to district budget documents.
International connectionsThe Janesville School District’s success has made it a “model for the nation,” Smiley said in a phone interview with The Gazette.
Smiley and program coordinator Mary Christensen recently visited Colombia and Spain and hope their work there will result in new students.
Both think the program has had a positive impact on local students.
The camps, which bring Chinese students to the elementary and middle schools, expose local students to a world entirely different from theirs.
“Being exposed to someone different makes students realize how much they have common,” she said.
When kids meet other kids, and when kids live with American host families, the stereotypes they have about each other disappear.
“We’re preparing our students here to go to college or into the workforce,” Christensen said. “They are going to have to work with people from other countries, different backgrounds and different experiences throughout their lives.”
This story was changed to correct the amount of the Janesville International Education Program budget.