School districts try to limit sales by students

School districts try to limit sales by students

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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- In a world of limited school budgets, it's become an accepted reality: Being an active, involved student often means being a salesman as well.

Fundraising, for better or worse, is crucial to the sports arts, and other extra activities that go on at schools. If the team wants new uniforms, often they've got to raise the money themselves. If the choir wants to take that trip, they have to find a way to pay for it.

That often means parents and local businesses find themselves opening their wallets -- or at least being asked to open them -- over and over, as students come seeking the extra money they need to carry out those extracurricular activities.

"I think the public's been pretty good, but I think they're tired of getting hit up all the time," Mountain Crest High Principal Bob Henke said.

This has led local school districts to take measures in hopes of limiting fundraising and allowing students and coaches to spend more time focusing on being students and coaches.

The Cache County School Board approved a new fundraising policy last May, which, among other changes, limits schools and groups to one fundraiser per year and bans door-to-door sales.

The Logan School Board will soon consider a draft policy that would make the same limitations.

The Cache District policy's ban on door-to-door sales is set up with safety in mind, so that children don't feel obligated to wander through neighborhoods knocking on strangers' doors. Instead, students are permitted only to solicit friends, family and people they already know.

The limit of one fundraiser is intended to reduce the amount of time and energy students spend on fundraising and ease the pressure on those who are solicited, including local businesses.

In an attempt to consolidate, schools have begun to combine fundraising efforts into booster clubs. Having a booster club to handle fundraising allows coaches to focus on instructing and coaching instead worrying about raising money, said Sky View High School Principal Dave Swenson.

The new Cache policy requires school principals to sign off on any fundraiser carried out by a group in the school. Hopefully, that requirement will allow principals to prevent multiple groups from going to the same businesses and "avoid conflict and excessive fundraising at any given time," the policy says.

The Logan District's draft policy currently has the same requirement.

Cache District's one-fundraiser limit has made it difficult for some programs that have relied on multiple fundraisers to fill the gap between what the district provides and what students use for their activities, Henke said

"It definitely affects us," said Jason Petrovich, director of Mountain Crest's bands. "It makes us think more creatively because we're so used to traditional fundraising methods."

The band has usually done three to five different fundraisers to help students cover their fees and to pay for new equipment, he said.

Henke has approved multiple fundraising programs for some groups in instances where only one of the projects involves soliciting funds from businesses or the public, he said. For example, the school's drill team will likely be paid to clean USU's basketball arena, the Spectrum, after a game, he said.

Henke said he's encouraged the teachers, coaches and advisers who oversee the school's extracurricular activities to be careful about choosing a fundraiser that will bring in enough money and to be aware that they may have to make do with less.

"The goal is to try to reduce the fundraising as much as we can and live within our means as best we can," Henke said. "Sometimes we're given the Volkswagen Bug budget, and we want a Cadillac."

The Logan City School District made a change in this year's budget in an attempt to put more funding toward athletics, hopefully reducing the need for student fundraising.

The increase came from a change in the way property taxes are collected, said district business administrator Zane Woolstenhulme. The school district's overall tax rate is divided between several levies, including one for recreation and one for capital money used for maintenance and improvement of facilities.

The current year's budget includes an increase in the recreation levy and an equivalent decrease the capital levy. That left the overall tax rate unchanged but sent more money toward recreation -- which will be applied to athletics -- and less to facilities, Woolstenhulme said.

The total increase for athletics will amount to about $130,000 per year, Woolstenhulme said. The board approved the change because it wants to cut back on fundraising required of students, he said.

"They don't want to be a burden on people any more than they already are," he said.

School fundraising is big business, and there are entire companies built up around it. Students in Cache Valley have sold cookie dough, poinsettias, discount cards, candles, 25-pound sacks of potatoes and more.

Band Director Petrovich said his mail stack and e-mail inbox are routinely filled with solicitations from fundraising companies.

PTA conventions are crawling with companies hoping to hook parents looking for fundraisers, said Logan School Board member Kristie Cooley.

When a school or organization contracts with one of the companies, they usually get about 50 to 80 percent of the profits from the sales, he said.

It causes some parents and members of the public to question why they should give some of their money to a fundraising company when they can just give directly to the school.

Susie Arredondo, who has students at several Logan District schools, said fundraising has been a mixed experience for her family.

"It's been good and bad," Arredondo said. "I know it's something to get the kids moving and feel that they're doing something for themselves, but at the same time it can be a headache for the parent."

That headache often also extends to the neighbors, friends and family members who find themselves subjected to an onslaught of sales pitches from their nieces, nephews, neighbors, and co-workers' children.

It sometimes feels like a race, Arredondo said. Every kid in the neighborhood rushes to ask for donations from the Joneses before anyone else gets there, and everyone tries to hit up Grandma and Grandpa before their cousins do.

The hassle is that much greater for parents who have multiple children participating in the same events, Arredondo said.

Apart from the difficulty it presents for parents and others, the kids don't usually like it either, she said.

"They hate the thought of having to go sell things to people," she said.

Some features of Cache School District's fundraising policy:

--Fundraisers can pay for equipment, transportation or services in addition to what is funded by the district. Collected funds cannot be used to pay employees.

--School principals must approve each school fundraiser after reviewing how the money will be spent and what students will do to raise the money.

--Elementary schools may carry out one PTA/school-sponsored fundraiser per year and one charitable fundraiser per year.

--Middle schools, 8-9 centers and high schools may have one school-wide fundraiser each school year and two charitable fundraisers. Each extracurricular organization in the school may also carry out one fundraiser per year.

--Door-to-door sales are banned. Students are allowed only sell to friends, family and other acquaintances.

--Students are not required to participate in fundraising to take part in activities. Fundraising may not affect students' grades, playing time or standing in any team or group.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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