Growing Schools

CASE STUDY: Growing Schools Deserve Help

GrowingSchools.jpgSeveral years ago, it became apparent to the growing school districts in Pennsylvania that the state’s formula for school aid actually penalized these districts for growth – at least in terms of per-pupil state financial support. This anomaly in funding was in conflict to the actual experience of school districts – that rapid increases in enrollment created significant strains on school operating budgets and particularly on capital budgets. As growing school districts were struggling to build more classrooms, hire more teachers and support staff, expand libraries and book inventories and otherwise cope with the increasing school population, the formula actually shrank their state per capita support.

As No Child Left Behind focused more and more attention on “problem districts,” the state had little time to attend to the needs of thriving districts that had become, in a way, victims of their own success.

Enter Triad Strategies, which teamed up with a handful of growing school districts on or near the state’s New Jersey border to launch the Pennsylvania Association of Growing School Districts (PAGSD). To carry the message to the public, the coalition used the power of “earned media” and legislative champions from the regions encompassed by the 45 school districts eventually part of the PAGSD. Triad developed talking points, drafted Op Ed (guest editorial) Essays, ghost-wrote letters to the editor and prepped school board presidents and superintendents for newspaper editorial board meetings. Triad also sought and placed news stories in daily media and provide concise briefing papers to legislators in support of amendments aimed at tweaking and revising the state school funding formula in ways that would drive tens of millions of dollars in increased aid to growing school districts over the next five years.