- McGilvra Elementary raised over $390K last year. They have about 240 students. You do the math.
- So far this school year, four of the district's nearly 100 schools make up more than one-third of the expenditures. They are all elementary schools in wealthy areas: McGilvra, of Madison Park ($240,280); Queen Anne's John Hay ($215,077) and Coe ($180,000); and View Ridge ($195,000) in Northeast Seattle. Other elementary schools at the top include Adams, John Stanford, Laurelhurst, Loyal Heights and Stevens.
- At the same time, dozens of Seattle schools, mostly in the South End, don't appear on the list because they don't have PTAs or don't raise enough to go through the central office.
There is no districtwide database documenting PTA fundraising by school, but it is clear that parent groups in wealthy parts of the city collect hundreds of thousands more than those in poor areas. The money — raised through everything from sales of baked goods or Christmas trees to black-tie auctions — can go toward almost anything, from classroom teachers to building maintenance, as long as the school principal accepts it.
Two things. One, I think the district is loath to collect data because, well, then they would have to admit how much money parents drive into the district. The Seattle Council PTSA should flex its muscle based on this issue. Parents are pumping money into this district.
Two, I really agree with the Washington State PTSA that parents should not be able to fund employees. It's too much pressure to sustain, it's inequitable and it allows the state to continue not fully funding education.
Bellevue, Lake Washington and Issaquah already ban the practice.
A similar shift is unlikely in Seattle, said School Board President Michael DeBell and Lauren McGuire, president of the Seattle Council of Parent, Teacher and Student Associations. They each cited the issue's political sensitivity and a reluctance to do anything that would limit donations in the current budget climate.
Still, some are hoping to start the conversation. Among them is School Board member Betty Patu.
What is interesting is how other districts are handling this:
Portland Public Schools: One-third of all parent donations are pooled into an "equity fund" run by a foundation, which distributes the money to schools that can't raise their own funds.
Eugene (Ore.) School District: Five percent of all parent donations are pooled into an "equity fund" that is divvied up essentially equally among all schools. Parents are also allowed to donate directly to the equity fund.
Bellevue, Lake Washington, Issaquah: These districts do not pool donations but do prohibit contributions from being used to fund the salaries of certified teachers. It was in that spirit that Bellevue Public Schools — after a long and contentious debate — decided in June to enforce a long-neglected prohibition on using parent donations to fund staff positions.
And this paragraph is a great summary of the issue:
Indeed, as large as fundraising amounts are at schools such as Hay, they rarely come close to offsetting the differences in the district's weighted formula, federal Title I funding and other programs benefiting poor schools.
But advocates for low-income schools point out that those funding sources come with strict requirements. So while poorer schools have little control over how to spend the extra money, parents at wealthy schools get to choose what will be most beneficial for their children. And schools in the middle get neither higher district funding nor large fundraising.
One of the comments struck me:
I have long been disturbed by how Seattle parents can so easily rationalize such a blatant inequality in their public schools. That other school districts have already dealt with this issue, and yet the Seattle school board president and PTA district leader refuse to even put a discussion on the table, is yet another piece of the unethical milieu that plagues this district.
Once again, Betty Patu is way out in front in terms of wisdom, candor and fairness.
I don't know what the answer is. I can never fault parents for supporting their child's public school and wanting it to be the best. But eventually, these kids all meet up in middle and high school. It would be great, at least from an academic standpoint, if they could have had something of a level playing field in elementary.