Under the US Constitution the primary responsibility for public education rests with the states, not the federal government.
The result is that K through 12 education is overseen by a fragmented system including local school boards, county level agencies and state departments of education.
Financially, approximately 90% of funding is from state and local taxes. The federal government’s share of education fluctuates between 12-15%.
Effective public education encounters all of the major issues of society: race, income disparity, immigration, technology access, financial resources and even political ideology.
The local school systems are a daily example of the major demographic, political and economic issues each community must deal with.
An Indicator of Economic Needs
Some credit unions such as NET Credit Union actively partner with school districts in their educational and outreach strategies.
Most credit unions today have community charters. One of the most useful indicators of the need for credit union services may be from the economic data provided about K-12 students.
Public information on each community’s K-12 student population is abundant.
Here are three examples of data points about the economic circumstances of students in the greater Washington DC area:
- In Montgomery County, Maryland, with 144,064 students, the percentage that have received free and reduced price meals (FARMS) is 42.4%.
- In Fairfax County, Virginia, with 187,000 students, the number considered economically disadvantaged is 34%.
- In the District of Columbia’s public school system of 94,503 students, 77% are considered economically disadvantaged.
These three school systems have some of the most affluent housing areas in the country and, due to government employment, some of the steadiest levels of employment.
Yet significant percentages of students are from families living in circumstances where the school system provides free meals.
Investing in the Next Generation of Members
School statistics can inform credit unions about the economic circumstances of local families especially those that are just be getting by. Financial education and access to reasonable credit is critical for lower income families achieving financial stability, if not independence.
Partnering with schools and students is a way to introduce the cooperative option to the next generation of members. Every community has a school system and most are under local control. A first step could be to ask the school board for the public statistics on their student’s economic and demographic trends. Then open a dialogue for how to reach those families who would benefit most from credit union service.
Forming a collaborative relationship with the single most important institution families’ consider when moving into an area, could give credit unions a long term partnership that enhance opportunities for those most in need.