The generosity of Tulsa’s philanthropic community has met the challenge of filling $185,000 budget deficit caused by the lingering recession and the budget cuts that affected the State of Oklahoma and the Department of Education.
Tulsa Community Foundation created a Street School Challenge Fund in September 2011 to supplement the operating needs of Street School, an alternative school of choice located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The campaign was kick-started with $50,000 in emergency funding from the Tulsa Area United Way and $55,000 from the Tulsa Community Foundation including $40,000 from the George Kaiser Family Foundation. A final donation of $23,875 from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation closed the gap.
But, with the 2012-2013 school year looming, Street School is focused on the future. For 25 years, the State Department of Education has funded Street School with upwards of $185,000. This represents 15% of the overall operating budget. “To lose that kind of funding prior to the school year beginning was quite the shocker,” said Street School executive director, Lori McGinnis-Madland. “We are so very thankful that the Tulsa community, including philanthropists from all walks of life, rallied and were able to replace essential funding for this school year.”
Fifty-six percent of the funding shortage was provided by foundations including: $40,000 from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, $23,875 the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, $5,000 from the ONEOK Foundation, $25,000 from the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, and $10,000 from the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation. Twenty-seven percent or $50,000 was provided as emergency funding by the Tulsa Area United Way. Seventeen percent was provided by an anonymous donor and individual supporters who also believe in the mission of Street School.
“Street School is a critical part of the Tulsa community. We at Tulsa Community Foundation were pleased to create this challenge and assist in providing an outlet for anonymous and individual supporters to get involved,” said Phil Lakin, CEO of Tulsa Community Foundation.
“We are proud to support Street School’s holistic approach to education and services that enable its students to earn a high school diploma and gain life skills to reach their potential,” said Stacy Schusterman of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. “Education is key to a better future for our children, our community, our country and our world.”
Bill Major, Executive Director of the Zarrow Foundations further stated that, “Street School is so important to the educational fabric of the Tulsa community because it helps students who otherwise might not graduate from high school. The Zarrow Foundations is pleased to help in a way that ensures the continuity of this vital program.”
Even though funding has been secured to complete fiscal year 2012, Street School is still working on FY13. “Those foundations that stepped up to this fiscal challenge have been clear that their donation was one-time funding. They do not make up lost public dollars with private monies on an on-going basis,” said Lise Blevins-Inman, president of the Street School board. “Street School will have raised 59% of its own funding to keep the doors open this year. We will be unable to do that in 2013 without strong community support.”
“The perception exists that Street School receives hard dollars from Tulsa Public Schools. The support Street School receives from TPS is in-kind. They accredit our program, provide the building we occupy, pay for utilities and supplies and provide salaries for seven of 27 staff,” stated McGinnis-Madland. “We couldn’t do it without them. But when operating dollars are needed for our nationally certified counseling program, 20 staff and curriculum materials, hard dollars are needed.”
Key legislators have toured Street School before this legislative session began. “The legislators I have met with have been receptive and indicated how impressed they are with the program and the students they have met. But, it has not been made clear that any line-item or discretionary monies will be provided. We are also not counting on funding to be restored by the State Department of Education,” said McGinnis-Madland.
Street School is in its 38th year as a non-profit alternative school of choice for students in grades 9 through 12. The program helps students earn their high school diploma through a supportive individualized program for students who have chosen to continue their education in a non-traditional setting. Students choose to attend Street School and are not sent there as an alternative to traditional high school. The school is an attractive setting for students who are committed to their education and may need assistance in resolving substance-abuse problems, learning life skills, dealing with behavioral issues or filling a void of education and emotional support traditionally provided by family.
“I need this school,” commented a student. “There is rampant drug use and fighting in my home so I stay with different friends or at the shelter. This school is my family. There are a lot of kids here who have it worse than me but we are all here for each other. I want to have a different life. The counselors and teachers at Street School believe in me and are helping me work toward going to community college. I didn’t know that was possible until I came here. I will be the first one out of four brothers and sisters to graduate from high school.”
Since 1973, Street School has served thousands of Tulsa-area youth at risk of dropping out of high school. It is a tuition-free non-profit alternative school of choice and therapeutic counseling program for students in grades 9 through 12. The program helps students earn a high school diploma through an individualized program for students who have chosen to continue their education in a non-traditional setting. The school is an attractive setting for students who are committed not only to their education, but also to resolving substance-abuse problems, learning and practicing life skills, dealing with behavioral issues, or filling a void of education and emotional support traditionally provided by family.