Education foundations have paid for exercise balls and standing desks in classrooms, helped seniors pay for college and gotten teachers more training.
The groups across the county are raising and giving thousands of dollars a year to teachers, administrators and students in most public school districts. The No. 1 goal of the residents who help raise money and organize the groups is to provide money for training and resources that schools can’t pay for out of the regular taxpayer-funded accounts.
“Schools just couldn’t fund things any more,” said Heather Hart, president of Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson education foundation. “We fill that gap.”
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A few in the county have executive directors, and money is raised through private company donations, teacher and staff payroll donations and large fundraising events. Some get grants of their own to help dole out money to local students and teachers.
And in most school districts, they are relatively new, with most popping up within the last decade. Three local education foundations have been formed since 2012.
Greenwood’s education foundation formed in November 2014, said Kent DeKoninck, superintendent of Greenwood schools.
He wanted to form a foundation to help enhance education in the schools, he said. The goal is to help pay for resources that school districts cannot afford or that teachers might try to pay for out their own pockets.
Foundations have paid for robotics clubs, class materials for new classes, new sports equipment and books for students.
“School districts sometimes have to make tough choices,” said DeKoninck. “There is only so much money to go around.”
In most cases, the education foundations were formed because residents and parents saw a need.
Most parents expect the best education for their children, and giving teachers the tools to help make a good education possible is one of the main goals of education foundations, said Chelsi Harper, executive director of Franklin Education Connection.
“I think teachers are all looking for innovative ways to engage kids outside of testing and typical school standards,” she said. “If we can influence lifelong learning, we feel like we are meeting the needs.”
About $155,000 was given out to teachers and in student scholarships at five school districts last year.
Most of the money is raised through fundraisers such as music festivals, community events for sports teams, galas and other events.
Teachers in most of the school districts also commit to having money taken from their paychecks and donated to the foundation. Some have received money through grants from the Johnson County Community Foundation.
Community members see the need the schools have an are eager to participate in the fundraising, said Kim Lee, executive director of Clark-Pleasant Education Foundation.
“Everyone has identified the need to support increased opportunities in the classrooms,” she said.
Now that most of the educational foundations are established, they are looking for ways to grow.
Center Grove is trying to grow the professional development arm of the educational foundation, said Carla Johnson, executive director of the Center Grove Education Foundation.
The idea is that teachers will take teaching workshops, funded by the education foundation. Teachers who would then take a workshop would develop a training module for other teachers in the district, she said.
So far, grants have been awarded to guidance counselors, reading and math teachers at elementary school levels and instructional coaches at all levels.
“That has been one of our areas of growth,” she said.