As Sequester Strikes Schools, “Box Tops for Education” Program Raises $500M

General Mills' "Box Tops for Education," the company's school fundraising program where labels collected from product boxes earn 10 cents for schools, has raised over half a billion dollars since its launch. General Mills has set a goal of raising an additional $75 million by the end of 2013, money that may prove crucial as public schools across the country prepare to cope with the across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

Since 1996, Box Tops for Education has provided $525 million in unrestricted funding to more than 90,000 schools, funding field trips, classroom technology, library books, playground equipment, and arts and cultural programming.

The program has raised $47 million in the past year alone, money that will become increasingly critical as the effects of sequestration become more apparent. The sequestration cuts that went into effect on March 1 will slash nearly $3 billion from education budgets nationwide, according to the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the United States representing over 3.2 million education professionals.

Some of the worst effects of the sequestration are already being felt on Indian reservations and military bases. Debbie Jackson-Dennison, Superintendant of the Window Rock School District in the heart of Navajo nation, told the Washington Post that her district may be forced to close almost half its schools because of dried up federal aid.

"We may have to close those schools - we don't have any other avenues at all," she said.

While Box Tops for Education will certainly not compensate for all of the cuts in federal funding for public education, the money could help stave off some of the most critical cuts.

"I witnessed the power of the program when I visited several schools in the state a few months ago," said New Mexico governor, Susana Martinez, whose state will lose an estimated $6.1 million in grants to local educational agencies and another $3.2 million in Head Start funding.

"After seeing how easy it was to earn cash for schools, I started encouraging everyone to participate to help students get the things they need most to improve their education experience," added Martinez. "I congratulate Box Tops for Education on reaching this impressive level of support for students everywhere."

Mark Addicks, chief marketing officer at General Mills, thanked the more than 75,000 volunteer coordinators who motivate local communities to collect Box Tops.

"We couldn't be prouder to have reached such a significant milestone, but we couldn't have reached $525 million without the passionate coordinators that help collect Box Tops," said Addicks. "Through their amazing efforts, we've been able to help fund school programs that would have been lost if it weren't for the Box Tops program."

Schools can earn up to $20,000 by clipping Box Tops coupons from 240 products and can earn eBoxTops by shopping online through the Box Tops Marketplace. More information about the program can be found at http://www.boxtops4education.com/.