The Lawrence Schools Foundation, which handles private fundraising for the school district, has started accepting donations to help with the budget crisis.
However, the foundation’s board of trustees is recommending that donors wait until the school board has made its decision about budget cuts in March or April, so the foundation can set up a giving option that addresses specific needs.
Executive Director Susan Esau said the foundation has received calls from people asking if the foundation would get involved. She and Ron Aul, president of the foundation’s trustees, met Wednesday with district leaders, and it was decided to set up a budget assistance fund.
Donors to this fund won’t be able to specify what they want the gift to support, she said. The money will be used for the district’s “general operations.”
“What people have to understand is, that will be at the board’s discretion,” Esau said.
School district leaders are exploring options to cut $5 million from the district’s budget for next school year due to the state’s budget crisis and higher insurance costs. Options such as closing elementary schools and cutting teaching jobs to create larger class sizes have met with some organized public opposition.
She said once board members have made their decisions, the foundation could set up a “Fund-A-Need” giving option for the public.
“It could include anything they’ve cut as long as it’s something they are willing to reinstate,” Esau said.
She said the Lincoln, Neb., public schools foundation has a similar Fund-A-Need giving option. The Lawrence Schools Foundation gives about $6,000 to $10,000 a year in grant funds to schools in certain areas, like academics, the arts, athletics, technology and a “greatest needs” fund, Esau said.
The foundation also annually provides about $300,000 in private funding to support programs, plus local businesses contribute about $700,000 worth of donations, in-kind contributions and volunteer hours annually to schools.
The public can donate to the “budget assistance fund” or learn more information at the foundation’s Web site, lawrenceschoolsfoundation.org.