The school year has started: The case for businesses to invest in education

The importance of a solid and robust education for our children cannot be overstated. I’ll bet that many agree with me when I say that the future of our communities lies with the youth of today, and it is our responsibility to ensure that children have the opportunities they need to be successful in the future.

Companies can play a role in supporting educational opportunities for K–12 students in their communities. Let’s consider why these efforts matter:

  • There are not enough dollars in school districts’ budgets to do everything that should be done for students. School districts are doing an extraordinary job with their resources; however, the students need more.
  • Communities with robust education systems and ample educational resources are shown to have lower unemployment, reduced crime, and a stronger economic foundation.
  • Companies want to hire talent locally.

What can businesses do?

Businesses can help support K–12 students in a variety of ways:

  • Introducing students to potential careers through internships, mentorships, and opening businesses to tours or shadowing opportunities;
  • Offering employment opportunities; and
  • Direct support — whether in dollars or volunteer time — of an education foundation. There are several in our area, including the Sun Prairie Education Foundation (SPEF), of which I have been a part for over 10 years.

What is an education foundation?

If you are unfamiliar with education foundations, let’s look at SPEF. It is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that runs independently of the Sun Prairie School Board. It was established in 2006 and is governed by 23 volunteer trustees, a group of energized educators and education advocates. The foundation awards grants and funds for unique, innovative, and genuinely extraordinary learning opportunities — opportunities that, without the financial support of our local businesses and individuals, would not have the chance to happen.

SPEF aims to invest in the future of the young people in and around Sun Prairie. Working in partnership with teachers, staff, parents, and others, the organization actively supplements children’s education with hands-on learning experiences to make learning as rich and robust as possible. Since we are an all-volunteer organization, we keep the administrative costs at less than 1%.

To say that the SPEF has made a direct impact on the community is an understatement. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than 435 grants totaling over $750,000 to a wide variety of projects, ranging from educational field trips for children to funding arts performances and so much more. We aim to raise the funds needed to meet the increasing community demands and fund 100% of eligible grants submitted (right now, we can fund 70% of grants submitted to SPEF).

Our work also includes helping other foundations and organizations consider how they can help students in their own communities. For instance, we offered guidance and assistance to the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) Education Foundation as it looked to launch in 2011. Today, they are a very successful foundation that supports the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District’s efforts to improve student achievement across all demographic groups. As the organization describes, it awards staff grants and student scholarships annually and funds programs and activities aligned with the district’s priorities.

So, what can businesses do as the school year starts?

As leaders in the business community, I encourage you to find and assist one of the many outstanding nonprofit education organizations throughout the Greater Madison area. All of them need our support.

For anyone who touches the Sun Prairie area, I invite you to learn more about the SPEF “Build a Legacy” campaign or the “Wolf Donor Wall” at Sun Prairie West High School (SPWHS). Giving supports students at all schools within the district. Special recognition is given at SPWHS for donations from $2,500 to $50,000. Additionally, there are naming rights options at Sun Prairie East High School (starting at $2,500), at the middle schools (starting at $1,875), and at the elementary schools (starting at $1,000). All funds raised during the campaign will benefit all students throughout Sun Prairie.

Whether you look to support SPEF or another organization, I urge each businessperson and owner in the Greater Madison area to find a way to support the young people in our community. The students are our future, and together we can help them thrive.

Jeff Tubbs is executive vice president of J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. and a Sun Prairie Education Foundation board member.

Click here to sign up for the free IB Ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.