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Creative funding

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Orange County Public Schools is getting creative with ways to bring more money into the school system.

They've launched a sales and marketing department that will sell limited advertisements on the district's highly visited Web sites.

"The point is, we're trying to be creative, think outside the box to generate revenue," said Rick Collins, OCPS chief financial officer.

He told parents and teachers at a district community engagement meeting on March 2 about the county's partnership with CFE Federal Credit Union to launch an affinity debit card that pays a nickel to the school district for every signature transaction by cardholders.

In addition to the Web advertising, the department will sell sponsorships in sports venues and tournaments across the district to put toward an athletics preservation fund.

The schools will also begin earning a licensing fee for the use of the schools' logos. Goods with school logos emblazoned on them, such as hats and T-shirts, sold at major retailers such as Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Albertsons will bring money into the district. Collins said licensing contracts with manufacturers have already been secured.

April Bird, a teacher at Cypress Springs Elementary School, is in favor of the effort.

"I think that it's important that we tap into whatever resources we can at this point," Bird said. "It's a positive win-win. I'm very excited they're doing this."

Daryl Flynn, vice chairwoman of the Orange County School Board, pointed out that the district has $43 million less than last year to work with.

The potential funding per student has decreased significantly in the last two and a half years. With the federal budget stabilization funds, there was a $510 reduction per student from July 2007 to January 2010.

Compared to the rest of the country, Florida received a C- grade in school finance and an F grade in spending. Florida is ranked 31st in the country.

"We need your continued advocacy," she told the attendees of the meeting, adding that the new session in Tallahassee began this week.

"Everybody is fighting for the buck. It's my job to fight for education."