The Parkland School District is in the preliminary stages of establishing an Education Foundation, which would not only provide a tax benefit to businesses but would also create new revenue streams for the district.
Spokeswoman Nicole McGalla, who is the district liaison for the foundation, said school officials have been brainstorming with community leaders to establish a board and committees. An inaugural meeting is scheduled for August.
In setting up a non-profit foundation, the district will join a growing list of schools in the Lehigh Valley that have done so, including Saucon Valley, Southern Lehigh, Allentown, Nazareth and Bangor school districts.
The Pennsylvania School Board Association, in recognizing the trend, included an article on foundations in its recent newsletter to help better inform its members.
"As budgets get tighter, schools are going to be looking for other ways to generate revenue and cover costs," said Steve Robinson, director of publications for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
He said he found that it takes several years to get foundations up and running, with annual revenues on average ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. However, larger foundations have generated much higher amounts. While Robinson did not know how many districts in Pennsylvania have established foundations, he said the National School Foundation Association counts 4,500 nationwide.
McGalla said Parkland officials have been discussing the possibility of a foundation for some time, as part of the district's strategic plans. Once established, businesses accepted into the state's Earned Income Tax Credit Program would be able to make tax-deductible donations.
"It'll create new revenue streams for us and provide some long-range financial stability," she said.
"It's also a way to give some relief to our taxpayers."
The foundation would be designed to foster creativity and innovation, not only in terms of new monies but also in funding enrichment opportunities for students and staff in kindergarten through 12th grade. For example, teachers might be able to apply for mini-grants for classroom projects.
Other possible initiatives include naming rights or the establishment of an alumni association and annual giving campaign. "We have very successful alumni," McGalla said. "It's an untaped resource."
Also, the new relationships with business and community leaders could lead to partnerships, job shadowing and mentoring programs, she said.
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association listed several potential benefits of foundations, including:
-- To raise awareness of school needs
-- To build communication with the public
-- To improve academic and educational opportunties
-- To prepare future school board members
In moving forward to establish a Parkland School District Education Foundation, McGalla said, "Our whole thing is, why not?"
District officials recently brought together about 55 community leaders of varying ages, cultural backgrounds and leadership skill sets to brainstorm ideas. McGalla said more than 10 people have expressed interest in serving on the board and others in serving on committees, including to help with fund-raising, development, outreach and communication.
Superintendent Richard Sniscak would chair an allocations committee to help identify the district's needs and guide distribution.
The potential value of a foundation was underscored by this year's budget process, which officials said was agonizing. Parkland officials faced many challenges as it wrestled with the 2011-2012 school budget because of shrinking state and federal subsidies and lower commercial property assessments. The district had to eliminate 60 positions, about half through attrition, as well as eliminate its driver education program to balance the budget. Parkland administrators also took a pay freeze for the upcoming year.