Marolt: Flailing on the boards | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: Flailing on the boards

Aspen is board town. Many of us practically live on them. I'm convinced that there are more boards per capita here than anywhere else in the world. As many as I've tried out, you'd think I'd be pretty decent on them, but I'm not. So many make it look so easy around here.

One board I am currently on is the Aspen Education Foundation. I'm not any better on that one than any of the others, but I'm on it for now, nonetheless. In fact, I am telling you that I am a terrible board member as a disclaimer.

I am going to go off script here today, and I don't want any of you to think that I am expressing the views or opinions of the Education Foundation in any way, shape or manner whatsoever. If you don't like what I have to say, please don't send your complaints to the good people at the Education Foundation. The buck stops here, and I'll get more to that in a minute.

Of course I want you to send money to the Education Foundation because school funding has taken a big hit the past few years and is likely to suffer more in the foreseeable future. Amendment 66 is supposedly going to raise an additional $850 million per year for Colorado schools via a new state income tax. This will be great for our state, but it doesn't appear that Aspen will retain much of the revenue that will be generated from our residents. Good for Colorado, a little disappointing for Aspen and enough to drive the tea party nuts — It sounds like a good proposal to me. But it still leaves a big need for an organization like the Education Foundation to raise funds for education locally and keep it here.

Enough of the politicking and on to the begging: My intentions today are to create a mess of paperwork for the Education Foundation. If you send it a donation, it will send you a letter. It's policy.

Now, one person could send the Education Foundation a check for a million dollars, and it would send out one thank-you letter, and the formative years of our children's educations would be much better off for the effort. But I don't believe that is necessarily the best long-run scenario that could happen, and it is not the one I am aiming for.

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Big one-time donations are great, but they are not the ultimate answer. For one thing, you can't count on them every year, and they make budgeting a nightmare — OK, maybe not such a horrible nightmare, but they don't solve all the problems, and that's the point.

I believe more value would come from 5,000 concerned local people being bonded in the common cause of educating our kids. Here's the catch — we are not going to meaningfully come together over a marshmallow roast at another community picnic. It is going to have to be a more conscientious decision made on everyone's part with no expectation of getting anything back immediately.

To truly generate 100 percent participation in this cause, everyone has to have a chip on the table. I don't care if it's only one dollar. Send it in and join the cause. There really is tremendous power in numbers. A 10-page list of donors in fine print will create momentum. The masses will generate more ideas. The impressiveness of it will break the inertia for further forward progress. Your participation will cause others to want to be a part of it. You will get a voice in the discussion!

I am certain that, if everyone in this town sent a single dollar to the Education Foundation right now, the costs to open your envelope, deposit your check and send you a thank-you letter will be more than the dollar received. Yet I am convinced that it will create tremendous long-term benefits that will pay dividends beyond what any of us can imagine. We have to do it!

One thing I am convinced of is that we need the Education Foundation to keep our local education system one of the best in the country. Another thing I know is that if the Education Foundation only grows each year in terms of the dollars it raises and not in the numbers of people who participate in it, one day, sooner than later, it will die.

They say that money doesn't solve all problems. I believe that's true. I also believe that lots of people banded together can do incredible things. For the price of a buck, we should at least give it a try.

Roger Marolt hopes you will send your Education Foundation donation today to: P.O. Box 2200, Aspen, CO 81612.