I was contacted by a reporter working on a story for Gannett News Service about the economy and its impact on public schools. At my kids' former school (AS#1) we got hit with the triple whammies of the budget cuts, drop in enrollment, and a decline in parent involvement, so I feel that my experience isn't exactly typical. I thought this blog would be a great place to get a broad response. Here is a modified version of the email the reporter sent me (edited to fit a public forum). If you'd rather contact the reporter directly to give a quotable account of your experience, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's the story overview:
Help for schools. The economy is better but far from out of the woods, and school districts are still strapped for basics so there are plenty of ways parents are tapped to give money for supplies, uniforms or other projects. What other things are schools doing to raise money or get the supplies and equipment they need? Are they taking donations from civic groups or shopping at Goodwill? What are communities doing to help schools -- other than approving another property tax hike? Are people donating old office supplies or holding car washes and bake sales?
• Number of kids (with grade levels - if you are comfortable).
• How many of your kids are in school? And are they in private or public schools?
• What is your general impression of the public school system in your area?
• Have you noticed that the economy is having an impact on other parents and schools?
• The story will focus on the current economy and how many school districts are still strapped for basics and funding. I want to know what schools are doing to raise money or getting supplies and equipment they need and what families are doing to make ends meet. Have you noticed this with the schools that your kids attend?
• How do you save money and/or cut corners for educational supplies, etc. for your kids? Any advice/tips for other parents strapped for cash?
• How long at the job? What division (Elementary, Middle, or High)
• How has funding changed during the duration of your career? Are you finding it harder to get the money you need for supplies, textbooks, renovations, etc.?
• What kinds of basic supplies do you need this fall? What are you sacrificing and/or living without? What are some important things you need but don't have?
• What are some "luxury" needs you have; meaning, the "nice to haves" but not "need to haves"?
• What is your school doing to raise money or help with costs?
• What do you do personally?
• Do you get any help from outside, such as community groups or nonprofits?
• How important is it for students to have the basics — and what do you think is the state of schools right now in terms of providing those basics?
• In general, how do you feel about the economic impact on schools today? Do you see the difference from years past? Do you see families struggling more?
• What do you think needs to be done?