Thursday, August 30, 2012

Okay, We're Back in School

It’s a rare school that is not “back at it” by now.

It definitely is a busy time for anyone involved in the school business. Most fall deliveries of supplies, materials, and equipment have been made, and the money is either gone from the budget or earmarked to take care of the bills that are starting to arrive.

Once you’ve been in school for a month, it is a good time to assess your budget. That budget might be for a district, campus, or classroom, but very shortly you should be able to tell if you have the money left to fund the things you need for the rest of the year. If you’re pretty sure you’re going to be running short of money, it’s time to start searching for grants that will help you bridge the gap.

If you are in charge of a campus budget, you now may be well aware of some surprise expenses that you weren’t expecting. More students may have arrived at your campus than you were expecting.  Maybe your population is a rapidly changing one, and you have a whole group of students now who have very limited English skills. You may realize that you are getting more and more students who are obese, and you feel like you are going to have to address the issue immediately, but you didn’t budget for it.

School life is often just like regular life. You have more needs and expenses than you have money coming in. Since we are not allowed for our campuses to go into debt, the solution may be fundraising or finding grants to cover the costs of these unexpected expenses. The amounts you can raise doing fundraisers is typically limited which leaves grants as your most promising solution for budget shortfalls.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again. When I was a middle school principal for a small Northeast Texas campus of 500 students, we stayed broke almost all the time. We had a host of things we wanted to do for our students, and we knew we weren’t getting any more money from the district.

We turned to grants and business partnerships to fund the projects we needed. In a three year period, we raised more than $300,000 to use on our campus. We built a 100-foot greenhouse for our science classes to use, put in a piano lab so that 110 of our students took piano every day, bought thousands of books for our library, bought computers for every classroom throughout the building, and made very sure that teachers never, ever spent their own money for the supplies and materials they needed.
 
I encourage you to look at grants as a way to fund the programs or the solutions to the problems that may have arrived along with your students at the beginning of the school year. Grants will not be the solution to every problem you have. Money is never the solution to all of our problems. But from my experience as an educator for 20 years, writing grants is the best solution to a school’s money problems much of the time.

Yes, applying for grants can be a hassle. No, they’re not fun to write, but the money they provide can help when you find problems and expenses that you weren’t expecting at the beginning of school.  Don’t delay. If you need money, grants may very well be your solution.