The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is considering setting up a private foundation to help raise money in addition to what taxpayers provide.
Individual schools sometimes create private foundations, such as one that recently formed to support Baton Rouge Magnet High School.
School district-wide foundations are rarer.
The School Board will consider the idea at its 5 p.m. meeting Thursday.
The new foundation, if OK’d, would take about four to 10 months to become operational, and would seek individual and corporate donations.
Its suggested name is the East Baton Rouge Parish School System Education Foundation.
The school system has a small fund set up through the Baton Rouge Rouge Area Foundation, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but it’s not set up as a tax-exempt organization. according to Pat Duhon, director of grants for the school system.
She said donors can give money directly to the school district as well, but are not as assured of receiving a tax writeoff.
“Some of them will not give to a governmental institution, but they will give to a 501(c)(3),” Duhon said.
Duhon said a foundation would have a board of directors that would determine what it would spend money on, but she said the intention is its spending will be aligned with the school system’s strategic plan, now being revised.
In the spring, Superintendent John Dilworth hired Jim Collogan, executive director of the National School Board Foundation Association, to study the feasibility of creating such a foundation in Baton Rouge.
Collogan is a former principal and superintendent who spent 20 years in public-school fundraising and has helped more than 50 districts.
The feasibility study was conducted between May to September.
Collogan convened a 12-member panel, divided between system staff and business people.
One of the committee members is former Superintendent Charlotte Placide, who had talked about forming a foundation after Katrina in 2005 to provide resources for the influx of thousands of students who came to Baton Rouge.
“The committee determined that it was unlikely that the education foundation would be directly competing for the same funds as other community foundations,” according to the study.
Collogan’s study lists three reasons for forming a foundation:
- Declining sales tax revenue and significant budget cuts.
- Rising expectations for student achievement
- High mobility, truancy and dropout rates.
In an Oct. 6 presentation to the School Board, Collogan said public universities decades ago started private foundations which have since raised money from alumni and corporations.
At Iowa State University, the foundation handles about $250 million a year, he said.
LSU’s foundation was formed in the early 1960s and has similar resources.
What if the parish school system had formed such a foundation then, how big would it be now, he asked.
“The problem I find across the country is we’re kind of Johnny Come Latelys to this relationship,” Collogan said.
In a short history of these foundations, Collogan wrote in the study that public-school foundations became more common in the 1980s after California voters approved the tax-restricting Proposition 13; the state now has more than 600 such foundations.
In Louisiana, foundations are rarer. St. Charles Parish, for instance, formed such a foundation in 2007.
The feasibility study also concluded that while fundraising might be slow at first, it would pick up as the local economy improved.
“It’s attracts dollars; it attracts people; it attracts interest; it attracts that interest from around the world,” he said. “How does that happen? Because your alumni are around the world.”