Student Well-Being

Risk Seen in Deals Offered By Fitness Group

By Jeff Archer — March 17, 2004 3 min read

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
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
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 Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
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
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

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 Opinion Where Does Social-Emotional Learning Go Next?
Teachers, students, and parents all want more social-emotional and service learning in schools. The pandemic has only heightened that need.
John M. Bridgeland & Francie Richards
4 min read
Friendly group of people stand and support each other.
IULIIA/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Masks, Tracking, Desk Shields: How Much Do School Measures Reduce Families' COVID-19 Risk?
A new study pinpoints the most effective mitigation measures and suggests that the more of them schools use, the better.
5 min read
Jennifer Becker, right, Science Teacher at the Sinaloa Middle School, talks to one of her students in Novato, Calif. on March 2, 2021.
Jennifer Becker, right, a teacher at Sinaloa Middle School, wears a mask to stem the spread of coronavirus as she talks with a student earlier this year in Novato, Calif.
Haven Daily/AP
Student Well-Being Opinion The One Thing Teachers Do That Hurts Student Motivation
When adults take over on a challenging task, kids are more likely to quit sooner on the next one. Here’s what to do instead.
Julia Leonard
1 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
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 Well-Being Whitepaper
The Complete Guide to SEL
This guide illustrates why SEL is more important now and what you should look for when implementing a social-emotional curriculum.
Content provided by Navigate360