A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, December 28, 2006

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:

School fundraising


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.

10 Comments:

At 12/28/06, 5:45 PM, Blogger The MAN Fan Club said...

As a teacher and a parent of a K I personally get beat down. We are "expected" to pay the $10 per teacher to join the PTA also. We don't really push our daughter's selling of fundraiser stuff. The extra cash does pay for extra tutoring and other fluff. It doesn't pay for full time teachers, but the $200K would pay for 5 teachers in Texas.

 
At 12/28/06, 6:09 PM, Blogger McSwain said...

As a parent and a teacher, I get SO tired of the seemingly endless fundraising at both my son's school and my own. However, I work in a relatively affluent area. My school and my son's are desperately underfunded. Meanwhile, the Title 1 schools in our district (just blocks away) have significantly higher funding.

The extra money pays for basics--working computers, teacher's aides, etc. Meanwhile, teachers still have to dip into our own pockets for needed classroom supplies.

Funding isn't equitable--probably never will be. But if the government pours more money into economically disadvantaged schools, then why shouldn't parents put their own cash into their own children's futures?

How sad that $200K would pay for 5 teachers anywhere.

 
At 12/28/06, 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so sad how underfunded schools are. It reminds of the old bumpersticker that said something along the lines of: Won't it be great when schools have all the funding they need and the military has to have a bake sale to finance nuclear warheads.

I hate fundraising...I'd rather donate some money to the school than buy a bunch of crap I don't want or need...but I ALWAYS buy from kids because I know they'll have to shell out to go on their field trip or band concert or whatever...it's so sad.

 
At 12/29/06, 10:36 AM, Anonymous rightwingprof said...

But is this anything new? In the 60s when I was in high school, when the band needed new uniforms, we sold candy and held fundraisers. When the basketball team needed new uniforms, ditto. The school funded neither.

As for there not being enough funding for education, there's more than enough. The problem is that the funds are misappropriated. With an education fund increase every year, when was the last time teachers saw a significant raise?

 
At 12/29/06, 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone told me about this adopt a class thing that a teacher did down in Florida. Big corporations take on classes and get them what they need. I dont know if it is grant funded, but where I work, this could really big a big help. It's just like anything else. It can be a help, or it can be abused.

 
At 12/29/06, 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Such is our society, both nationally and globally.

 
At 12/29/06, 5:29 PM, Anonymous Ms. Q said...

Our school's fundraising is usually for clubs or athletics. There is no PTA. Teachers have to fund things like the Christmas potluck and presents given away. I am not sure there is a fair way to make sure money is raised equally. In theory, combining fundraising efforts in all schools, sounds good, but if my students raised more than another schools, is that fair?

 
At 12/29/06, 10:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our last budget proposal went down to defeat at the polls, largely because of 1) a massive get-out-the-vote effort by the senior citizens in town, who didn't want their taxes raised, and 2) because our local budget was on the same ballot as that of the regional high school system we feed into - with its FOUR massive high schools - and their budget was bloated with goodies like synthetic turf for practice fields (!!!) and - I kid you not - interscholastic ice hockey.

I join the PTA every year, and I buy their stuff once a year. I like the t-shirts or sweatshirts with the school logo to wear on dress-down Fridays. But I don't like the money going for frivolous trips to amusement parks or to pay for the eight graders' "free" yearbooks.

When the budget went down, we lost a technology teacher and a full-time reading specialist. We needed both of them. A lot.

 
At 12/30/06, 8:56 AM, Blogger Fred said...

Happy New Year, Ms. Cornelius!

 
At 1/1/07, 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, our PTA must stink. We only raised $10,000 in our fundraiser this year...

I am with The Man on the burden on parents. I don't like asking my friends to buy crap they don't need, so I usually end up buying the crap for myself. It is bad for the environment and really benefits the crap company more than anyone else. At least people like things like Girl Scout cookies...

 

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