Education Foundation asks parents to ‘step-up’

Eben Harrell
Aspen Times Staff Writer

On the heels of the Aspen School District’s announcement of a $1 million budget deficit, the Aspen Education Foundation, a local nonprofit that supports Aspen’s schools, has decided to “step up” ” and is hoping local parents will do the same.

The Step Up to Education Campaign is an attempt to increase contributions to the Aspen Education Foundation (AEF) by Aspen families. Currently, only 14 percent of district families contribute to the foundation; AEF officials hope to get 100 percent of families involved.

The foundation traditionally has provided grants to pilot programs such as Aspen High School’s International Baccalaureate classes. It has also offered lesser grants to individual efforts like field trips and science fairs. Since its inception in 1991, the foundation has raised more than $2 million.

“Right now only 14 percent of families contribute. Can you imagine what we could do with 100 percent participation?” said AEF board member Lisa Amador Dimento.

With the school district in a financial crunch, foundation officials say their grant-making efforts will focus more on core expenses.

“If you have to do without the butter to pay for the bread, you pay for bread,” said AEF President Donnie Ryan. “If you have to go without a field trip to pay for heating the schools, it’s clear what you should choose.”

Foundation officials are hoping all district families will contribute some amount. They are also looking for more volunteers to join AEF’s 26-member board.

In an interview last week, district Superintendent Diana Sirko said Aspen’s schools will be forced to rely more heavily on foundation grants as it goes through three years of cuts to balance the budget.

“As an example, we’ll be cutting back on professional development and training programs for teachers. That’s an area where grants from the foundation would provide an invaluable resource, allowing these programs to continue,” Sirko said.

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