Show me the money
Should parents engage in massive fundraising to fund their public schools? Should they have to?
In addition to her usual school budget this year, Bryant Elementary School principal Linda Robinson will have nearly $200,000 to spend on student field trips, library materials, instrumental music and artists-in-residence.
The school's Parent Teacher Student Association raised the money in a seemingly endless string of bake sales, pledge drives and other fundraisers — a common phenomenon in schools in middle-class and wealthy neighborhoods.
Bryant's group also pays for occasional lectures and workshops at the school, Robinson said.
"We're not a rich school but highly educated, and there's a strong belief in the role of this school in this community," she said.
...State and federal money directed toward low-income students helps supplement schools like Thurgood Marshall, and in some cases that extra money means those schools ultimately collect more than the richer schools.
For the past decade, Seattle Public Schools has also used a funding calculation called the "weighted student formula," which targets money toward schools that have more students in poverty or with special needs. The formula, which the School Board is considering revamping, has prompted parents at more affluent schools to step up fundraising efforts to make up for it.
Two Hundred Thousand Dollars! Good grief! And by the way that pays for three full-time teachers, which I assume they otherwise would not have. I found this little chart included as a sidebar very instructive, since I found that $200,000 in fundraising was far from the apex of loot-gathering:
A Seattle Public Schools report shows that parent fundraising (classified as school "self-help") varies widely from school to school. The report also distinguishes among state and federal money and private grants, but some parent donations may be counted as grants and therefore not part of the amounts listed below. Shown are the elementary, middle and high schools with the most and least "self help" in 2005-06.
View Ridge Elementary School: $325,248
Thurgood Marshall Elementary: $2,046
Mercer Middle School: $137,506
Meany Middle: $25,952
Roosevelt High School: $318,577
West Seattle High School: $42,016
Source: Seattle Public Schools
Check out the entire article.
Of course, the first thing that this points to is that there is not enough funding of public education, no matter how it's sliced. Another thought that occurs to me is that the very amounts that are raised indicate another disparity in these schools: besides monetary resources, there is obviously an ability/willingness on the part of some of these parents to fund their children's schools in addition to whatever taxes they pay to support the broader school system.
In some of the more impoverished schools, there isn't even a parent-teacher organization in existence. We could hypothesize about WHY that is so all day long: is it apathy? lack of time for parents who are working multiple jobs at odd hours of the day? a combination of both?
Another point: there really will never be any such thing as funding parity for schools. Some parents will always give more. Some parents will give nothing extra, either because they can't --or they won't. (We all have encountered parents who tell us that anything having to do with their child's education is the responsibility of the schools themselves. Sad, but true.) This does not mean that we shouldn't try to fund schools as equitably as possible, however.
But is there a point at which one school's massive fundraising too much? Would these parents who have raised six figures for their schools be willing to donate some of their copious funds to another school which was not blessed with such great resources? Is there a societal obligation to try to make sure that all students should have access to extra teachers or materials or field trips? That sense of communitarianism is the basis for public schooling in the first place: we taxpayers support public school systems, even if we have no children in them, even if we have never had children in them, because we value having an educated populace and an educated workforce. This country is based the ideal of Horatio Alger: that we believe that anyone can succeed by taking advantage of opportunity. Therefore, opportunities must be made available for everyone to succeed. That's the real challenge facing our society.
Via Mrs. Walker.