It’s a familiar scene happening in August of every year– nervous freshmen, protective parents, bustling volunteers, and last, but not least– members of bands and sports asking for money at Registration. They’re not the only ones in need of money, however. Students running clubs, such as MUN, Speech and Debate and Science Olympiad often have a hard time accomplishing their competitive aspirations due to a lack of funding.
Some might say that fundraisers might be enough, they often only manage to bring in a few hundred dollars in revenue. And while this may be enough for some smaller clubs, it definitely isn’t when considering the amount of funds necessary to pay the travel expenses required in academic competitions.
In order to solve this problem, IUSD should allow clubs to apply for grants. As long as the club can show their objectives, their need and their commitment to spend the money wisely, they should be eligible to receive funding from the school district.
Academic competitions such as Science Olympiad are a great way for motivated students to pursue their interests beyond the classroom, but they often require materials and supplies not available in school. While students can try to be resourceful in designing a project with a low budget, it is very difficult to compete with other teams who have access to customized airplane kits, configurable robots and other technology. They also need funds for transportation—just like athletic teams that travel to compete—but unlike athletics programs, the students’ families must donate to cover the costs. Since fundraisers only raise a fraction of the total budget, the financial burden often falls upon parents.
Speech and Debate faces a similar problem. Every tournament might cost anywhere from $20 to hundreds of dollars to attend, and while donations might be enough to cover local league tournaments, members have to foot the bill for competitive, national tournaments. In addition to that, members must compete against teams from all over the country, from public and private schools, whose districts and school boards invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into their programs to ensure success. Add that to the arsenal of private coaches each team has, and it’s almost a David and Goliath story–except this time, David gets clubbed to death with a baton made of hundred dollar bills. IUSD is one of the most affluent districts in the United States, yet they spend less supporting academic clubs than inner-city school districts that are more hard-pressed for funds. These less-affluent school districts support clubs because they realize just how important they are. It’s almost shameful that IUSD turns a blind eye.
Applying for grants is a great way to emulate how funding is acquired in the real world. Teachers often apply for grants to get more iPads for their classroom. Professors apply for grants so their lab can conduct their research. Non-profit organizations apply for grants so they can have the resources to help others. It would be a great way for high school students to learn to research the costs of events and competitions they attend, create budgets and submit proposals demonstrating their needs—and it will make sure the funds only go to clubs that really need them.