LISD Q&A in response to single education foundation goal

Last week Four Points News published a column from one of the founders of Viper Nation  Education Foundation. The opinion piece was critical of Leander ISD’s Dan Troxell, superintendent, and the district’s goal to form one education foundation rather than have two or more. LISD responded with reasons behind its move to have a single education foundation.

  1. What is the background for LISD wanting a single foundation?

Two educational foundations support Leander ISD schools and students through non-profit organizations: the Leander ISD Educational Excellence (LEEF) and the Viper National Education Foundation (VNEF).

In the fall of 2017, a group approached the administration regarding the formation of a third non-profit foundation to support schools in Cedar Park. That prompted the district to consider the implications of having two or more education foundations in LISD. After reviewing best practices throughout the state and the nation, it became evident the district should move towards the creation of a single foundation. In spring 2018, representatives of the boards of LEEF and VNEF, as well as their executive directors, began discussing options to create a single foundation. Questions arose during these conversation regarding legal matters pertaining to merger and dissolution, tax implications of creating a new 501(c)(3), and equity issues with feeder pattern-based donations. Leander ISD sought a legal opinion from an outside attorney with specialized knowledge in education foundations to answer these questions.

While the education foundations and donors can make donations at will, the acceptance of those donations and the subsequent use of the funds by the district are subject to restrictions, specifically to creating equal opportunities  to all individuals throughout the entire district geographical boundaries.

The Board of Trustees extended the memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for both foundations through June 30, 2019, as the two separate entities negotiate this issue.

2) What is Leander ISD’s involvement with foundations?

Educational foundations are separate and independent entities of Leander ISD. They are subject to their own laws and regulations, governed by their own independent boards of directors and managers of their budgets, charters, and bylaws.

Both the Superintendent of Schools and Chief Communications Officer (CC) serve as ad-hoc (non-voting) members of the LEEF board, there to support volunteers and to comply with the stipulations of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU.)

The district’s role is to adhere to local policies for accepting donations, to comply with state and federal laws, and to work under terms established in a MOU.

3) How is Leander ISD using funds to support the foundations?

Leander ISD needs to receive more funding back from the foundation than it contributes through its resources. LISD allocates money to LEEF to support its executive director salary and a part-time administrative assistant, as per the MOU with LEEF.

In order to facilitate the negotiations between LEEF and VNEF and to address the complex questions each entity had regarding possible merger and/or dissolution, LISD hired an outside attorney and third-party consultant with specialized knowledge in these areas. As of March 13, LISD spent $3,851 from the Superintendent’s pre-allocated budget for Consulting Services to Innovation Foundation and $14,655 from the Superintendent’s pre-allocated budget for Legal Services for attorney’s fees.

4) How are education foundations different from PTAs and booster clubs?

Booster clubs and PTAs are separate entities from Leander ISD, operating under their independent bylaws and leadership teams. Due to their relationship with our schools, LISD publishes booster club guidelines and PTA guidelines to adhere with fundraising, trademark licensing, and facility usage rules.

PTA organizations operate under guidelines and a charter established by the Texas PTA and the National PTA.

Education foundations serve multiple schools and are not activity based (like booster clubs). While the terms for the partnership are defined in the aforementioned guidelines for booster clubs and PTAs, LISD and foundations work together to define operational procedures through signed MOUs, brought to the elected Board of Trustees for approval.

The administration does not have any plans to change booster club or PTA guidelines.

5) Why are the foundations considering dissolving to form a new foundation?

Because they are two separate and private entities, Leander ISD can only share the following information about the negotiations.

As part of their negotiations to merge, the entities discussed a variety of options, including dissolving both and creating one new foundation. In December 2018 and January 2019, both boards of directors notified LISD that they would be willing to work towards a reasonable arrangement for merging into one foundation, including dissolving.

Once both independent foundation boards notified LISD in writing of their intent to negotiate a solution that may include the dissolution of both LEEF and VNEF, LISD executed an agreement with Foundation Innovation that could total $28,000 in fees.

Both LEEF and VNEF representatives continue to meet regularly and report to their respective boards of directors.