Merchandising our schools- lame attempt to help fix Ohio’s School funding problem

Sure, Ohio State makes a mint selling “officially sanctioned” merchandise. Terrelle Pryor jerseys made the school a lot of money before he tried to cash in on his fame and brought the machine down to its knees.

Now, we’re going to try to solve our pre-K-12 funding problems by allowing schools to sell merchandise instead of only the booster clubs, thanks to a new bill introduced by local State Rep. Mike Henne:

School districts in Montgomery County could become the first in Ohio to explore new revenue streams — beyond relying on taxes, state and federal aid and donations — under a new bill that would allow them to earn profits on its facilities, services and merchandise.

State Rep. Mike Henne, R-Clayton, introduced the bill Friday that would amend current legislation and allow Montgomery County’s 16 school districts to pilot the new program. The bill would allow districts to earn profits off a variety of services, including rentals of classes to selling school merchandise, such as T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts, above costs.

“It’s not about redoing all the school funding formula,” Henne said. “It’s about giving (schools) the ability to make some additional money.”

For the next two years, operating funds for Ohio schools have been cut nearly $780 million in state funding….

Henne said the pilot plan was suggested by Vandalia-Butler City Schools and its treasurer, Dan Schall.

“Dan thinks he can fill the gaps (with this bill),” he said. “It’s how creative and how much the school system decides to use it.

“Everything they do has to be within the mission of the school system. They can’t create something like how to make a widget better or open a restaurant. Maybe they come up with an online program how to learn French, whatever it is.”

Vandalia-Butler’s current operating budget is $35 million. Schall said if the bill passes, he projects his district could eventually generate 1 percent of new revenue of its total budget.

“Dan’s one of the more progressively thinking treasurers out there,” Henne said. “He’s always trying to think outside the box.”

Under the current law, only booster clubs — such as ones for marching bands and athletic teams — and not school districts can make profits off merchandise, concessions and other activities. Henne said the updated bill would allow school districts to charge beyond what it costs them to operate a particular venue, class or service.

Schall said passage of the bill creates “an additional revenue stream for us. (Currently) we can’t sell anything. We can’t rent for profit. That doesn’t help the taxpayers.

“If we can rent that facility or sell T-shirts or give art classes, we can get a revenue stream that won’t be taxes.”

Schall said the amended bill “is something, down the road, that could replace as much as 1 percent of our budget. It’s a first step in identifying new revenue streams.”

Henne said the bill will allow schools to “sell their brand, rent space (for a profit), sell educational services and sell technology.’

via Schools may generate revenue from sales of goods, services.

So, now, in addition to little Timmy’s parents having to pay for Timmy to play basketball with an additional fee, the school can also start selling him school branded clothing at a markup to make up for the fact that our system for funding schools in Ohio was ruled unconstitutional long before little Timmy was born and the state legislature has done nothing to fix?

There used to be a couple of cool hippies who lived behind my office. They had a bumper sticker that applies to this – it was something like: “Wouldn’t it be great when schools had all the money they needed and the Air Force had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

School funding in Ohio is broken. Selling merchandise may be a fun distraction for some administrator in a school district that still can afford to pay them to do something other than meet all the other state mandates while working with a lot less money, but it is far from what the students in Ohio need.

It’s time to fix our school funding problems once and for all, and to have the best schools in the nation, because, no matter what the “economic development” gurus say, the number one thing that drives a community value is the quality of the schools- and the number one thing that drives value in our new economy is a well educated workforce.

Unfortunately, in Ohio, we’ve been told that the lottery was going to provide revenue to our schools and now, that casino gambling and video slots at racetracks are going to be engines of economic growth. The only thing that grows our capacity to compete is education- and it’s time to stop nickel and diming our educators.

When our greatest threat is the economic destruction caused by a debt downgrade from a bond rating agency- maybe it’s time to have less F-35s and more A students.

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18 Responses

  1. Larkin February 5, 2012 / 5:25 pm

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  2. Larkin February 5, 2012 / 10:56 pm

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  3. pizzabill (Bill Daniels) February 6, 2012 / 12:03 am

    Community members that feel they have been taxed enough, and are tired of feeling like school boards want them to continually write the school board a blank check aren’t the bad guys here.  If you asked your boss for more resources and the boss said, “No.  Times are tough and you’ll have to make do with your budget”, you would have to figure out a way to make do.  That’s what you’re hired for.
    That seems to be what the school board treasurer and state representative mentioned above are trying to do here.  In response to Larkin’s comment, it’s painfully obvious to me how “bands, deabte (sic) teams, athletic groups etc. can raise (more)… money that they raise now by selling branded merchandise.”  How in the world can they not??  NOT merchandising! The idiocy just takes my breath away.
    I remember recognizing (even as a high school student) some great fundraising opportunities in high school that were not taken advantage of, such as the Latin Club t-shirts that said “The Only Good Language Is A Dead Language.” That was a pretty cool shirt, and could have raised some bucks for the Club if sold to more than the three or four members of the Latin Club.  I wrote for the school paper and had to sell Tootsie-pops as a fund raiser.  Recognizing the too-low selling price the teacher set, I offered to sell the other school paper student’s quota, raised the price, sold out to some happy customers who felt the price was fair, and pocketed the difference.  I even went out and bought more, and sold them well beyond the school paper’s fundraiser.  That paid for spring break in Daytona my senior year.  My experience and lesson was that schools typically don’t have any idea how to raise revenue and simultaneously make people happy.  I recognize that this was my own happy little lesson, but I think it holds true today.
    To imply that voters who refuse a tax increase are “voters refusing to support education” is disingenuous and misleading.  Voters of the community (and I specifically say voters here, meaning people who care and typically pay the taxes and therefore constitute the real community) generally want their schools to be strong, but have an innate sense of when they’re being asked to pay too much.  Voters also innately recognize when spending more is a good deal.  A No vote to a tax increase is clearly a reflection of the community’s wishes that should be respected and honored by the school board.  If, as a school board member, you can’t work in a way that respects the community’s vote, then resign and let someone who wants to work for the community do the job.  And don’t malign the people such as the school treasurer and state representative mentioned here who are trying to do just that.  I think they’re on the right track.  If you work at it, you can simultaneously raise revenue and have people happily pay.
    And David, this is exactly the “bake sale” type of fundraising you seem to speak in favor of out of one side of your mouth.  You haven’t explained what’s wrong with this idea at all in a factual way, you just complain about it.  Private schools that are quite successful at educating students (as evidenced by the parents paying thousands a year in tuition in addition to their property taxes) hire uniform companies to sell “required” uniforms to their students, and then get a percentage of sales paid back to them in order to raise revenue.  At least families buying branded public school clothing at a mark-up would be by choice.
    Regarding the Ohio Lottery – school funding connection, how did we get to the point where a well recognized social ill such as the “numbers racket” gets sold as a way to “help the children” of our great state?  Believe it or not, I believe the premise of taking a gambling game, that people are going to do anyway, and making it a tax generator is a good idea.  It legitimizes something that people want to do anyway, even if it’s not good for them (the odds are terrible– playing the lottery is simply paying an “idiot tax”),  but why does the state pay to advertise it, and even pay to have a game show glorifying the lottery?  What if we simply put the advertising budget and all the dollars spent on producing the game show directly into schools?  Even if some accountant says it makes the state more money to advertise the lottery, who are we getting these dollars from?  I bet (no pun intended) the lottery is the most regressive tax we have.
    School funding is broken because we have the same problem in education that GM and many other organizations (and our federal, state, and local governments) are experiencing, too much in the way of legacy costs– pensions, health insurance, disability payments, etc.  Taxpayers today don’t want to pay someone retirement benefits for 40 years when they only worked 20 or 30 years.  Do the math.  It’s simply not a sustainable system, regardless of what people were promised. We need to make benefits payable at a reasonable retirement age like 65, not after so many years of work.
    I’m getting down from my soap box now and having a beer.  Goodnight.

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  4. Larkin February 6, 2012 / 12:18 am

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  5. David Esrati February 6, 2012 / 8:46 am

    @PizzaBill- When your dad tells you to clean your room or you can’t go play hockey, does it count if you go clean the toilet and leave your room a mess?

    That’s what I was trying to communicate in this post- our school funding system is unconstitutional and has been broken for years, yet, now- we’re trying to fix it with “bake sales.”

    I have no problems with this change- I have a big problem that this legislation is the best our politicians can do to solve a very big problem in Ohio.

    And- I don’t think your wife really has any more time to run a t-shirt shop on top of what she already does- as Larkin points out (note to readers, Pizza Bill’s wife is one of Dayton’s best math teachers- at Stiver’s School of the Arts- where Larkin’s son goes to school).

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  6. Diane February 6, 2012 / 12:02 pm

    I honestly believe that SB 5 would have gone a long way towards helping all OH school districts deal with the out-of-control legacy costs that Bill references above, but the unions obviously convinced enough voters that it was a bad idea, and so now we are all gonna live with the consequences.

    If you voted against SB 5, I don’t think you have a leg to stand on while complaining about cuts to bussing, after-school activities, etc. The money’s just not there folks, get used to it. Taxpayers, those of us still fortunate to have a job, are maxed out. Done.

    Until this country’s ecomonic realities (i.e., unemployment and foreclosures) turn around, federal and state money’s not gonna be there to bail out the overspenders. Note that the pro-SB5ers said that teacher layoff and cuts to services would be virtually inevitable if the new law were overturned, and it has been, so at least in the short term, they are. Those of us who supported SB5 are not surprised.

    And Bill is 100% right that it is the school boards’ and teachers’ responsibility to make it work with the resources they have and not to blackmail the parents by threatening the end of the world as we know it if the next school levy fails…again…as it should…until Columbus wakes up and gets the school funding mess in this state straightened out for good.

    I personally don’t see the harm in letting school’s sell spirit wear and the like for a profit. Our HS already has a school store. Citizens would at least have the choice whether or not they wanted to buy, and the financing burden would not fall solely and unfairly on the shoulders of local property owners as it does now.  

    P.S. My favorite Latin Club T-shirt that never got made (to my knowledge) read “Semper Ubi Sub Ubi,” roughly translated as “Always Wear Underware.” Great advice, regardless of your political stripes. LOL  

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  7. Dan February 6, 2012 / 2:26 pm

    The money is already there. It’s just, as per usual, government chooses to spend it in the wrong places… ie “national defense”
     
    Diane –  I’m not sure if you know this or not, but you’ve been paying lower federal taxes the past five years than you did the previous ten. Here’s a nice little PolitiFact for ya:http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/dec/01/barack-obama/obama-says-taxes-lower-middle-class/
     
    So you may be tapped out, but it not likely that it is due to any increased federal tax burden.
     
    SB5 wasn’t bad in that addressed problems with overreaching on the part of public employee unions, or in the funding of the public sector, it was bad in that the bill itself overreached. There were going to be consequences of different sorts whether the bill passed or didn’t. Ohio chose one set over another, they chose to protect unions.
     
    David is correct… the system is broken and while merchandising is nice, it’s little more than a band-aid where extensive surgery is needed, with a subsequently hefty dose of antibiotics.
     

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  8. Diane February 6, 2012 / 2:45 pm

    Dan,

    While federal income taxes may have gone down, our local property taxes certainly have not. Those are the taxes that get raised every time another school levy (or any community levy, for that matter – library, parks, etc.) gets passed. Renters with no skin in the game vote for the levy increases every time. We property owners are maxed out. 

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  9. Dan February 6, 2012 / 3:39 pm

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  10. Diane February 6, 2012 / 3:58 pm

    I’m afraid our politicans PREFER us dumb.

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  11. Dan February 6, 2012 / 4:05 pm

    who could argue with that? haha…

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  12. David Lauri February 6, 2012 / 7:18 pm

    Diane claims that “renters [have] … no skin in the game” when it comes to property taxes.
     
    You’ve got to be kidding.  Renters pay rent.  If a landlord’s expenses go up, the landlord raises the rent.  My rent has gone up every year for years.  I have skin in the game.

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  13. Chuckie Chops-A-Lot February 6, 2012 / 7:25 pm

    My issue isn’t with schools being able to raise money through mechandising.  I say do so by any means necessary.  My issue is that it is smoke and mirrors or a slight of hand trick by politicians.  It is done so some State Representative can stand-up and say look what I did to fix the schools.  It is compararable to feeding a hungry whale a Tic-Tac!  Give the schools the real money they need and let them fund raise on top of that.  I also would like the bumper sticker David mentioned.

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  14. Dan February 6, 2012 / 8:02 pm

    Its not about bake sales and T-shirts.  Its not about what is free today or even what boosters or small groups already sell.  
     
    Its about school districts and teachers who have new ideas, new technology, new best practices that could save taxpayers money, make a difference, and give schools more resources for student programs.  However, without this bill, there is no way to make it happen.  

    Its not much, but it beats the options school have right now….tax more and provide less.   No wonder no one is happy. 

    There is a lot more to this than a 90 second media clip or quick article can cover.

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  15. Shortwest Rick February 6, 2012 / 9:35 pm

    They made the schools remove Pepsi and candy machines, now they need a new stream of revenue for their slush fund? The percentage of profit schools can realize in clothing sales is slim considering the effort required by staff to order, receive, inventory, store, sell, deliver and account for the funds. In my opinion, this is another political payback by the Representative, there will be one clothing vendor supplying this product to all the schools and making a killing.

    The problem with funding schools, other than the current method being declared illegal is layers and layers of administration in the systems who do nothing but spend their time trying to perpetuate their own jobs. If tax money was actually spent on educating students the systems wouldn’t have to constantly beg for more money.

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  16. Dan February 7, 2012 / 9:06 am

    ok… there’s two Dans apparently. Also I agree with Larkin… the thumbs up and down thing is the worst feature of this site.

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  17. David Esrati February 7, 2012 / 10:02 am

    @Dan and Larkin- I’ve tried to let people self regulate- and not require registration. So far, for the most part- it’s worked. The key is to find a handle that’s unique. To Dan R- I can easily change your name for you to something unique- just let me know what you want it to be.

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