Well, it can’t hurt

We applaud Chico Unified School District trustees for their desire to “think outside the box,” as they say in the business world. New ways of raising money are always welcome, as is raising awareness about the political shortcomings of the government’s school funding system.

But some trustees’ belief that Chicoans are good for a full $1 million a year in donations to public schools seems overly rosy. Even universally lauded charities like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys & Girls Club of Chico don’t come near raising $1 million a year. So far, the Chico Community Education Fund has touted $6,500 in generous donations—great, but there’s still $993,500 to go, and the CUSD likely has to cut $4 million over the next two years.

As trustees debated last week how to manage the dollars raised, Superintendent Scott Brown pulled the reins back to reality: “We don’t have enough money to get terribly carried away about control.”

He’s right.

Sure, we love our schools, but it will be hard for potential donors to get past the fact that their taxes are already going toward local schools and it’s still not enough for what we’ve long thought of as part of the basics—music, athletics, junior high electives and so on.

Now trustees are trying to blame the structure of the former CUSD Education Foundation for not bringing in the bucks. A new, all-volunteer foundation, they say, could get the job done.

Sure, the old foundation couldn’t rouse more than a few grand even while getting $60,000 a year in support from the CUSD. But if we remember correctly, that foundation was never intended to go the bake sale- and athletic supporter route. The director was trying to woo donors into setting up large endowments that would fund school programs long-term—something that takes a lot of time and glad-handing to achieve.

It’s great that trustees have the energy to re-think school funding. We hope they have much success. Any little bit helps. But we also urge trustees to take a lesson from the past before hanging all their hopes on goals that may be too lofty.