The Education Foundation encourages innovative curriculum and increases educational and extra-curricular opportunities in Bend, Sunriver and La Pine.
It’s been three decades since Oregon leveled the playing field for school dollars by shifting the burden of funding K-12 education from local communities to Salem. That move helped standardize funding for all Oregon schools, eliminating the haves and have-nots of the past. It also created a whole new set of questions about how to fund non-core activities like sports and extracurriculars and even the arts.
It’s a vacuum that has been filled by bake sales and car-wash fundraisers in many places. Here in Deschutes County, a dedicated group has taken a more deliberate approach that has raised more than $1.5 million in private donations to fund athletic scholarships and classroom teaching grants that have enhanced the experience of thousands of students.
Now celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, the Bend-based Education Foundation awarded almost $90,000 in classroom grants this school year that will help bolster arts, language and science curriculums.
“It would be great if all the resources were available and there wasn’t a need for the Education Foundation, but there is a need,” said Executive Director Michelle Johnson.
The Education Foundation’s oldest program is the activity fee scholarship, financial aid that goes toward participation fees associated with after-school sports. With Mt. Bachelor’s donations from its annual Ski4Schools event and the support of former-recipient and Olympic athlete Ashton Eaton, this program has aided nearly 4,000 middle and high school students.
The Foundation also provides classroom grants to innovative STEM programs, art and music, life skills and wellness programs. Although there is a focus on high-need schools, grants are awarded throughout the entire Bend-La Pine district.
“These are teachers that are going outside the box,” said Johnson. “We might have a teacher in the language arts area who will have MOsley WOtta come and show students how the spoken word of poetry can relate into a career. We just funded a grant for an elective course in zoology.”
For the 2018-2019 school year, the Foundation awarded $89,000 in fifty-three classroom grants, which is $30,000 more than its previous record in honor of its thirtieth anniversary.
Most recently, the Education Foundation has adopted two new programs: perseverance awards and Latino scholarships, both awarded to graduating seniors. Thanks to the continued support from grant partners, individual and corporate donors and the Bend community, the Education Foundation is able to help meet the demands of the growing Central Oregon population.