With the decisive defeat of Amendment 66 in November, school districts across Colorado faced the unpleasant task of tightening their belts to various degrees. For Durango School District 9-R, that exercise was not particularly easy, given that the district has seen its resources decline by $4.5 million since 2009. But planning for 2014-15 involved another $1.6 million in cuts, which the district announced last week would be primarily absorbed through salaries no longer paid because of buyouts, retirements and positions consolidated or eliminated. That is a sting students will surely feel next year. The Durango Education Foundation’s fundraising efforts will not alleviate that pain, but they are well worth supporting nonetheless.
The foundation’s purpose is to support District 9-R by connecting it with resources it cannot otherwise easily access. And the foundation’s mission is to “encourage innovation, achievement and excellence in all academic areas and levels of District 9-R education.” That typically amounts to about $100,000 that the foundation distributes each year, in the form of grants – internal and pass-through – scholarships, and funds for various programs including music, arts and travel to academic competition.
This year, the foundation is doubling down and then some, seeking to raise $250,000 this spring to help individual schools’ discretionary budgets. It is an ambitious effort that the community should support.
The foundation does not aim to plug the $1.6 million hole or offer a long-term solution to the funding woes that 9-R is facing. Rather, the Community Action for Education campaign intends to give each school funds it can use to purchase materials currently out of reach for resource-limited schools. The items on schools’ need lists include books for classrooms, transportation to field trips or after-school activities, curriculum materials, teacher training, laptops, iPads, smart boards, art supplies and musical instruments, but donors can direct their gifts to specific areas, schools or grade level. There is not a wrong way to help.
An anonymous donor is helping the foundation get started by pledging to match the first $50,000 raised at a dinner Thursday at DoubleTree Hotel. That generosity is significant, and those who can participate to maximize the matching grant should do so.
The Durango Education Foundation’s board of directors is under no illusions that its fundraising efforts, even if successful beyond the board’s aspirations, will fix what is now a years-long and worsening problem for District 9-R: There are too few dollars to adequately meet the district’s needs. A remedy for that formula will require the Colorado Legislature’s action, if not more. Rather, the foundation’s efforts will provide a one-time boost in a year where there is little good news, funding-wise, for the district.