Guest column: Florida Leads the Nation in Leveraging State Funds through Consortium of Florida Education Foundations

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By Susan McManus

Naples

President

Champions for Learning

What happens when the Florida Legislature allocates $4 million in matching funds for contributions to local education foundations for the 2013-14 school year? Their volunteer leaders and staff roll up their sleeves to raise even more for locally driven initiatives to increase student achievement!

This school year, the state’s dollar for dollar match with private donors means an $8 million investment in classroom innovations throughout Florida.

Before state funds are distributed, local education foundations must certify that the matching dollars have been raised from non-government sources. Foundations must also develop local programs that specify how they will address one or more of the current eligible program areas: teaching quality, increasing graduation rates, support for low performing students, literacy, STEM (science, technology, mathematics and science) and career/technical education. Since it began as an initiative of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF) in 2001, more than $25 million in state funds has been leveraged through the match program.

“No other state has this type of $1 for $1 match incentive for providing above-and-beyond support for students and classrooms through local education foundations,” said National Schools Foundation Association Executive Director Nina Menis. “Florida is a true leader in encouraging business, individual and philanthropic investment in public education and state leaders should be applauded for making the program a priority and empowering community leaders to make a difference for their students.”

This school year alone, the funding resulted in 125 locally driven initiatives in 53 of Florida’s county school districts, impacting more than half of the state’s 2.7 million K-12 students.

For Collier County, that means $66,797 in state funds was matched by local donors, primarily Arthrex, whose generous support helped us capitalize on the match. These funds were invested in a groundbreaking model of college and career readiness being implemented at Golden Gate High School.

The Real World Learning Model is designed to help students and families set goals and gain a clear understanding of the steps and resources to achieve those goals and how they connect to the workforce. Students learn about the resources available to help pay for post-high school education and how to make sound financial choices. Fundamental to this model is a new volunteer framework that provides coaching support for students, assistance with college and career pathways, test preparation, tutoring to help them stay on track for graduation, and support in completing the financial aid forms. We are already seeing tremendous results mid-year and we look forward to sharing the year-end results with the community.

I am very proud of the work done through the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations over the years. Education foundations all across Florida work collaboratively around the state within affinity groups to strategically link our local needs and initiatives to others around the state.

CFEF leverages relationships and creates partnerships with businesses and foundations that impact students in the classroom and strengthens cooperation between the private sector and our public schools. We appreciate the support of the Legislature and our local representatives as this match represents the fundamental role that communities play in getting the best possible education for our students.

Visit www.ChampionsForLearning.org and www.CFEF.net or call 239-643-4755 to learn more.

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