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
Teaching Profession Webinar
How Does Educator Well-Being Impact Social-Emotional Awareness in Schools?
Explore how adult well-being is key to promoting healthy social-emotional behaviors for students. Get strategies to reduce teacher stress.
Content provided by International Baccalaureate
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
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in 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 Spotlight Spotlight on Healthy Schools
This Spotlight will help you discover how health and wellness can create a transformative school environment and more.
Student Well-Being How Schools Can Help Students With Learning Differences Overcome Mental Health Challenges
A Twitter chat focused on mental health needs of students with thinking and learning differences and teachers and how schools can help.
Marina Whiteleather
4 min read
Student Well-Being Q&A Mental Health Concerns Multiply for LGBTQ Students Who Are Asian American
Culturally relevant mental health programs are needed to help students feel a sense of belonging, report says.
5 min read
Counselor 1387286499 b
E+
Student Well-Being Marketing Deals Trickle Down From NCAA to High School Sports
The brightest stars in high school basketball now have business deals to prove it.
5 min read
Johnuel "Boogie" Fland shoots hoops in the gymnasium of Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, N.Y., Monday, May 2, 2022. Fland is among a growing number of high school athletes who have signed sponsorship deals for their name, image and likeness following a Supreme Court decision last year that allowed similar deals for college athletes. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)