Run for the hills! It's PTO fundraiser time!
Well, the school year is barely born, and yet, here comes a darling middle-schooler with loads of fundraising materials for the PTO.
I'll be honest: I asked the kid if she would just take a sawbuck and not sell me anything. When that didn't work, I asked the kid what was something in the catalogue that she would like, and I bought it for her. I mean it's not the poor little tyke's fault that the adults associated with her school would rather see their kids taking time away from more important activities to shill out on the streets. As a taxpayer in this district, I am willing to pay for things outright rather than through the sleight-of-hand of school fundraisers which I believe are not beneficial to children. Besides, I would have just not answered the door, but there is a CRAZY neighbor down the street who curses and threatens people, and I felt I had to warn her not to knock on that person's door.
I am deeply troubled by PTA/PTO fundraisers for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, there is the safety issue of sending a kid out to flog their wares to a variety of strangers. I mean, really. Even if the parents are with their kids, this is just not safe behavior in this day and age. My kids are urged to call their aunts and uncles and grandparents to sell, and most of my relatives do not have money to waste on the stuff that is sold in these campaigns. Which leads me to objection number 2....
Second is the awful, overpriced crap they sell. Be it frozen pizzas, cookie dough, candy, wrapping paper, magazine subscriptions, silver-plated jewelry, educational books, or whatever, this stuff is repugnant from an aesthetic as well as a pecuniary standpoint. Fourteen bucks for eleven ounces of ersatz Reese's peanut butter cups? You have to be kidding. Some of this stuff is so kitschy even my mother, a dewy-eyed collector of big-eyed kittens and little girls in prairie dresses with face-obscuring bonnets if ever there was one, would wrinkle her nose in disgust. I like my friends, and I am not willing to try to guilt them into buying this stuff for my kid, either. I'm not so sure I would sell this stuff to my worst enemies.
Third is the ridiculous goals set and prizes promised. Once again, the prizes are predominantly a collection of crap so cheap they would have been in the rejection pile of the rankest Chinese gewgaw factory, and a kid has to sell a couple of hundred dollars' worth of Pile of Crap #1 to receive a trinket from Pile of Crap #2.
Fourth is the reason why these kids are sent out to sell this schtuff in the first place. It is because the PTA/PTO doesn't charge adequate dues for membership in the first place. Two dollars for an individual membership or five dollars for a family is less than what my parents paid in the early seventies when I first entered school. Now I understand their rationale here. I just vehemently disagree with it.
Fifth is the percentage of these fundraisers that actually stays with the school. The majority of the funds from this fundraiser of course went to the company that shills this crap in the first place. They usually have some red-white-and-blue name like "All-American Fundraising" or "Great American School Promotions" but the last I checked, child labor is not really considered all that desirable, much less patriotic.
The rationale for low PTA/PTO dues (which necessitates these fundraisers to begin with) is that some parents can't afford more. That may be true at many urban schools, and I have all the sympathy in the world for that situation. In that case, fine, charge two bucks, and understand that the ADULTS need to realize that they are going to get what they pay for. But the school districts around me are middle- to upper-middle class. If those kinds of parents can't afford 10 bucks for a PTA/PTO membership, it is primarily due to prioritization of resources within the households in a majority of cases. If a parent can't afford it, really and truly, then he or she is not going to buy a membership whether it is two bucks or ten. Why not GIVE memberships to those truly below the poverty level and then charge other parents 10 bucks? You'd still make money. My guess is that this ridiculously low figure is set where it is simply to inflate the membership numbers to make it seem like the PTA/PTO is more influential than it really is. I'm not happy to think that, but rather resigned to the reality of a sizeable chunk of parents who just aren't that invested in their children's educations. They'll pay a thousand bucks a year for a cell phone but claim to not be able to invest ten bucks in their PTA/PTO. They'll pay fourteen bucks for eleven ounces of peanut butter cups rather than simply invest in their PTA/PTO in some cases, too, which just shows how illogical this all is. It's all about priorities.
And it is not a reflection of this current recession. This fundraising gambit has been in place where I reside for the last thirty years at least, in my experience.
In the case of my own children's introduction to this middle-school misadventure in merchandizing, I simply called up the PTA president. I asked her what percentage the PTA got to keep from each dollar raised (which by the way, is also ridiculous. These companies are making money off the backs of our children, and I don't like it one bit. So I just offered to write a check straight to the PTA, as long as it was understood that my kids wouldn't be selling so much as a stick of gum. Then I bought them their own little Spongebob radio as a surprise the next time I caught them doing something nice for someone, and we were done.
In short, joining the PTA/PTO should mean something. It shouldn't mean that our kids are now the equivalent of Fuller Brush Men.