Learning Point Reward program helping schools raise funds

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah schools are bracing for tough times, based on state budget cuts, but a new program offers a glimmer of hope for families to help their schools from the checkout aisle.

With the swipe of a card, every dollar Sherrie Payne spends to feed her family will also provide a few cents to educate her children. Learning Point Reward cards allow families to raise money for their neighborhood schools through their every day purchases.

"One thing, it helps my kids. It's free and it's easy, and I spend money anyway," Sherrie said.

Parents and teachers also like that kids don't have to go door-to-door to sell cookie dough or pizzas in order to raise extra school money.

"When a kid does fundraising, he only does it once because that's all they ever want to do it," said Brittany Payne, Sherrie's daughter.

The Alpine and Jordan school districts recently launched the program hoping the kickback on proceeds would ease budget cuts.

"There's a big gap in what schools are able to do and what they would like to be able to do. And with the economic downtown, that gap could be filled by partnerships like this one," explained Steven Hall, director of the Jordan Education Foundation.

At the top of the wish list for South Hills Middle School: they hope their 1,100 activated rewards cards will help them upgrade the computer lab.

"I've told my teachers I'm looking at a strained year next year. I think everyone would agree with that. This is how we're going to try and do what we need to do," Principal Janette Milano said.

It's win-win for hundreds of merchants, both local and online, who gain customer loyalty and for the card company that shares a percentage of the proceeds.

It's too early to see how much schools will really take in, but the card company touts it as a new model. "It has the potential, realistically, to change the way education gets funding in our country," said Jay Taylor, president of Learning Point Rewards.

Schools get anywhere from 3 to 10 percent back on the purchases made by cardholders.

E-mail: dwimmer@ksl.com

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