Donors to the Bellingham Schools Foundation often ask, “If I pay my taxes, isn’t this enough?” The concise answer is no. Our taxes simply are not enough to fully fund the vision of the Bellingham Promise.
Our community understands the public school system to be one of the hallmarks of our nation’s democracy as well as a reflection of our local community’s values. Yet developing the next generation of engaged citizens with the knowledge, character and actionable skills required to succeed in the 21st century is an undertaking that requires both a strong collective commitment and additional outside resources.
Understanding the complexities of how we can fully fund an education that prepares students for success in a dynamic, interdependent global economy is vital for this bold commitment and the outside resources that support it to take shape. So while pondering how to reduce the topic of educational funding to its most basic elements, I am inspired by my own busy kitchen this holiday season to employ a simple cooking analogy to help illuminate this subject. Let’s make some educational soup together:
Year-end gifts support the foundation’s efforts to nurture the 11,000 students who attend our local public schools.
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The starting point for any soup is the stock. For our purposes, the largest portion of Bellingham Public School’s general fund revenues come from the state in the form of general purpose funding, or “apportionment” that is based generally on local student enrollment. This money serves as our foundation, or basic stock, providing just over 50 percent of the resources required to prepare our scholastic soup.
Other special purpose state and federal monies provide the means for Title 1, special education and other earmarked programs permitting us to add some additional body and flavor to our broth. These monies, combined with the general state funds, provide just over 70 percent of budgeted revenues. This leaves us with a modest soup that can nourish the body — but one that does little to feed the mind.
The construct of a more palatable and nourishing soup requires the careful layering of more robust components. For Bellingham’s public schools, our local levies provide the means to add these vital ingredients. Voter approved levies enable our educators to prepare a significantly improved and more substantial soup. Indeed, this February, Bellingham voters will have an opportunity to consider two replacement levies; levies that currently provide nearly 25 percent of the critical revenue required to create the good, quality soup our students enjoy today.
But how do we take a good soup and make it truly great? Across our state and nation, local school foundations are one path to adding the cream and seasoning into our educational soups after years of rationing — or in some instances, completely going without. These finishing ingredients may seem gratuitous, but rather, they are at the heart of what nourishes the whole child.
The cream can be the resources that create opportunities for our future scientists and mathematicians to construct a first-class robot and travel with it to the world championships to compete with teams from around the world. The cream can also be the means to support more than 125 future musicians by providing free access to learning a new instrument. The seasoning may be support for 77 Promise K students to have quality early childhood learning opportunities that their families could not otherwise afford; closing learning gaps and preparing our youngest learners for success on the first day of kindergarten. These important ingredients, all supported by gifts to the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation, are what help elevate our soup from good to great — a soup that creates transformative experiences for our students by feeding their minds and nourishing their souls.
This year, we invite you to partner with us in providing the resources to make some great soup together. Nourishing the whole child is one of the core beliefs of the Bellingham Promise. The vision of the promise states that we, as a community, will empower every child to discover and develop a passion, contribute to their community and achieve a fulfilling and productive life. Now that would be some pretty amazing soup!
To make an end of year gift to support the foundation’s efforts to nurture the 11,000 students who attend our local public schools, you can go online at bellinghamschoolsfoundation.org.
Kim Lund is executive director of the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation.