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Schools Look Beyond Budgets for Outside Income

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For Del Oro High School in Loomis, Calif., raising the money to field its 37 sports teams is a hit-or-miss proposition.

Every October, three cows are let loose on the school football field for "cow-chip bingo." Chances are sold for one-yard squares marked on the field, said Bob Christiansen, the school's athletic director.

"Basically, where the cow deposits its droppings, that person wins," he said.

Del Oro is not the only school foraging for funds in peculiar places. Cuts in state aid combined with the anti-tax mood of voters have forced more than a few school officials across the country to fill budget holes with outside income, according to Mary Fulton, an analyst for the Education Commission of the States.

"They're just doing anything they can to recoup some extra dollars here and there," she said.

Pioneering Efforts

The money these efforts have reeled in may not seem like much compared with a district's entire budget, Ms. Fulton said, but it often is enough to keep specific reforms or extracurricular programs afloat.

The hunt for extra income also has resulted in some trailblazing endeavors for schools. District 11 in Colorado Springs has been selling advertising space on school buses, hallways, athletic uniforms and facilities, and other district property.

The 32,000-student district, which has formed a partnership with an advertising agency, will make $59,000 this year from contracts to tout Burger King, 7-Up, and Pepsi-Cola, district officials said.

Voters have not approved a tax increase for the district since 1972, and teachers' salaries have been frozen three of the past five years.

District 11 officials believe their advertising program is the first such districtwide effort in the nation. But, they said, calls have been pouring in from schools that want to follow suit.

"Most of them said they were in bad financial times and wanted to know how they can put something together similar to our program," said Tracy Cooper, a public-relations officer for the district.

In York County, Va., school officials are considering a similar program to make up for cuts in its federal aid. The district expects a $1.7 million deficit in its nearly $50 million budget this year, said Laura K. Abel, a spokeswoman for the 10,700-student district.

"That causes you to be very creative," she said.

Highway 'Tolls'

Other schools and school groups that have caught the entrepreneurial spirit hope to solicit corporate sponsorships and market products bearing school insignias or logos. (See Education Week, 09/21/94.)

In Florida, state lawmakers have passed a measure to promote schools as a favorite charity of drivers. Beginning last month, Floridians renewing or purchasing automobile license plates can buy "License to Learn" tags that feature drawings of a graduation cap and diploma inside an apple.

The plates cost $17, with $2 going to the state and $15 targeted for schools through local education foundations. Based on revenues from other specialty plates sold in the state, the tags could bring in as much as $3 million, school officials said.

Some Pennsylvania schools also are tapping motorists for support, but in a more forcible way. At least nine districts are using a 1940's-era state law to impose parking taxes, according to David W. Davare, the research director for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. The law gives such broad tax powers to governmental agencies that "it's become affectionately known as the 'tax-everything law,'" Mr. Davare said.

Outside Innovators

Groups of parents and other supporters of education also have come up with some enterprising moneymaking plans.

The athletic booster club at California's Del Oro High started its cow-chip bingo, which rakes in about $20,000 each year, after state cuts in education spending threatened teams' budgets.

And in Tucson, Ariz., the Educational Enrichment Foundation has for four years sold items left unclaimed at area dry cleaners. Sales have included wedding dresses, military uniforms, chefs' outfits, and drapes.

Not all of these efforts have been free of trouble.

The Harrisburg, Pa., school district withdrew the parking tax it had passed for this school year after the local parking authority filed a lawsuit claiming that schools have no taxing authority.

And in Virginia's York County, officials are fighting a law that bans advertising on school buses.

But in Colorado Springs, most residents appreciate the fact that the schools essentially are rooting through the sofa cushions for loose change, Ms. Cooper said.

A few callers have been worried about advertising in schools, she said, "but there has not been one who said, 'I'll see you in court.'"

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