Student Well-Being

Risk Seen in Deals Offered By Fitness Group

By Jeff Archer — March 17, 2004 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

State officials in Minnesota are telling districts to proceed with caution when making deals with a group that offers schools across the country a way to get new fitness programs for students at no cost.

The warnings issued in recent weeks by both the state auditor and the attorney general of Minnesota relate to the National School Fitness Foundation, a 4- year old organization based in American Fork, Utah.

At issue is the unusual financial arrangement by which the foundation helps schools acquire its trademark program for improving physical fitness, called L.I.F.T. America, which stands for Leadership in Fitness Training. Districts pay for the product upfront, and then receive funds back from money raised by the foundation.

Minnesota State Auditor Patricia Anderson calls it a risky proposition.

“There is no guarantee that they are going to get their money back, or that the company is going to remain stable,” she said in an interview last week.

National School Fitness Foundation officials agree they can’t assure districts that the group will be able to raise ample funds to offset the full cost. But that uncertainly is spelled out, in bold type, in the agreements that the foundation makes with school systems, as noted in a recent report by Ms. Anderson’s office.

What’s more, the foundation claims to have met its financial commitments so far to all of the 500 schools nationwide that have adopted the L.I.F.T. America fitness program.

Minnesota’s auditor concedes that of the 13 districts in her state that have struck deals with the foundation, none has reported a problem in receiving money back from the Utah group.

“There is a risk to districts, and that is something we are upfront about with schools,” said Christopher M. Rees, the executive vice president for public relations and marketing for the National School Fitness Foundation. He added: “We have never once defaulted on a payment to a school.”

Publicity Concerns

Districts that sign contracts with the group agree to buy the L.I.F.T. America program, which the foundation developed, from a for-profit company, School Fitness Systems, also based in American Fork.

Costing between $112,000 and $220,000 per school, depending on the grade level, the program includes fitness equipment, curricular materials, training for school staff members, and a “kiosk"—an instrument that gauges body fat and other fitness data for use by the school, and by the foundation’s researchers.

Districts often borrow the money to make the upfront payment. In such a case, the foundation pledges to work to raise money to contribute back to the school system in amounts equal to the district’s monthly bill for the loan. But its contracts stress that “business risk” is a factor, and that the district could be liable to cover remaining costs if the foundation is unable to make its contributions.

Mr. Rees said his group makes those contributions out of funds from private donations and licensing fees included in the program’s purchase price. The foundation also has helped districts win physical education grants from the U.S. Department of Education to pay for the program.

Ms. Anderson urges districts to consider how they’d meet their financial obligations if those sources of funding dried up.

Thomas Dickhudt, the superintendent of the 3,600-student Chisago Lakes, Minn., school district, said he’s confident the foundation will work to live up to its end of the bargain, though he worries that the recent publicity could affect the group’s ability to raise money. His district installed the L.I.F.T. America program at one of its schools last year.

“We’ve been extremely happy with them,” he said of the foundation. “They’ve met all their payments. They’ve been a really good organization to work with, and we’re going to continue to work with them.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being In Their Own Words These Students Found Mental Health Support in After-School Programs. See How
3 students discuss how after-school programs benefit their well-being.
6 min read
Vector illustration of a woman sitting indian style with her arms spread wide and a rainbow above her head.
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Cellphone Headaches in Middle Schools: Why Policies Aren't Enough
Middle schoolers' developmental stage makes them uniquely vulnerable to the negative aspects of cellphones. Policies alone won't help.
6 min read
A student holds a cell phone during class at Bel Air High School in Bel Air, Md., on Jan. 25, 2024.
A student holds a cellphone during class at Bel Air High School in Bel Air, Md., on Jan. 25, 2024.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
Student Well-Being Teachers Want Parents to Step Up to Curb Cellphone Misuse. Are They Ready?
A program from the National PTA aims to partner with schools to give parents resources on teaching their children healthy tech habits.
5 min read
Elementary students standing in line against a brick wall using cellphones and not interacting.
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Schools Feel Less Equipped to Meet Students' Mental Health Needs Than a Few Years Ago
Less than half of public schools report that they can effectively meet students’ mental health needs.
4 min read
Image of a student with their head down on their arms, at a desk.
Olga Beliaeva/iStock/Getty