Archive for Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Grants a necessary part of district’s budget

February 5, 2003

Kansas' recent financial problems have left the Baldwin School District in a budget crunch and scrambling for ways to stay afloat without making major cuts.

One way the district will try to make up some of the budget deficit is by relying on something it's been using for years -- grants.

"I think this is critical," Anita Faddis, Baldwin High School family and consumer science teacher, said. "Other school districts are realizing this is a way to add to the general budget. Our school district has really got to be proactive."

Faddis, who spends three hours a day researching and writing grants for the district, said it will only be a matter of time before grants become necessary for schools to meet their budgets.

"It's a sign of the times," she said. "Anything past your bare necessities you're going to have to find funding for."

Grants are considered soft money made available for school districts and come from a multitude of sources including the state, organizations and private foundations and donations.

Districts have to apply for grants, which, depending on the requirements, mean anything to filling out an application to researching and putting a package together.

"It is very time consuming," Faddis said. "Requirements can be anything from a letter to research. Some can take 40 hours of research."

Faddis and a committee of faculty spend time researching and deciding which grants the district will apply for.

"There's no secret to finding these grants, but you really have to work at it," she said. "My philosophy is to apply for everything you possibly can because you know you're going to get something."

The district has already been working at it for several years and has seen the benefits of grants. Faddis said grants paved the way for the Bulldog Den, the Marion Springs Elementary School environmental center and Heritage Days at Vinland Elementary School.

Both the Parents as Teachers and 4-year-old At-Risk programs are also funded by grants.

"We've experienced the rewards of grants for a long time," she said.

In the past year, the district has also received grants for anti-youth smoking activities, medicaid reimbursement and vocational funding.

The district also has several grants pending. One is a partnership grant with the Santa Fe Trail District, that if approved, would allow for $150,000 in state-of-the-art technology to be placed in elementary classrooms.

Another is a partnership grant with the Baldwin City Recreation Commission for new soccer fields.

Including the pending grant applications, the Baldwin School District has been awarded more than $523,000 this past year.

"It's a really big chunk for a small school district," Faddis said. "It can make a big difference."

But once a grant is awarded to the district, the work is far from over.

"Once you get a grant, you have to do reporting on it and audit it. They want to see the money is being used for what we said it would be," she said. "Once you get a grant, your work isn't done. You're still obligated."

Another disadvantage is that grants are good for only a year. If they are still available the following year, the district must reapply again.

"It's just hard work," she said.

But she said the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

"It sort of allows us to survive with new and exciting programs that we wouldn't have had before," she said.

And it hasn't just been about the money, either.

"Although money was a motivating factor and getting new equipment and improving our resources, there have been other benefits," she said. "We've developed new partnerships and new programs we probably wouldn't have done otherwise. We're finding out money has been a secondary thing."

But the district, she said, will find the extra money necessary in the upcoming years.

"It certainly is going to be an opportunity for our school district to meet some of our demands," she said. "In fact, I don't think we have a choice."

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