Sunday, January 29, 2012

One More Piece to the PTA Fundraising Discussion

Brian Rosenthal had one more small article on this subject and it, again, is about McGilvra. 

In 2000, SPS and McGilvra had a contract to allow McGilvra a way to hold the line on their class sizes.  To whit:


The oddity started in 2000, when parents at the small and then-low-performing school in Madison Park negotiated a unique contract: The PTA would buy two portable classrooms for about $120,000 and pay $200,000 per year to put teachers in them. In return, the district would keep the school's class sizes low or provide extra programs for the next 20 years.

It was an agreement unlike anything District Attorney Ron English had ever seen, he said.
And it worked for a decade.

But last year, amid implementation of a neighborhood-based assignment plan, overcrowding at some schools and pressure about the fairness to other schools, the district opted out of the contract, paying a $60,000 buyout fee.

I knew this was happening but I didn't know its status since the NSAP.   Smart of McGilvra to make sure if anything changed, they got some money back out of it.   But then, money does talk. 

What is telling is a comment from the first article:

"Of course it's unfair. Of course it is," said Bill Crawford, president of the Roxhill Elementary PTA, which typically raises less than $5,000 per year. "That's the way the world is."

I agree with Mr. Crawford; that's life.  That's what puzzles me about the charter school push for choice.  State governments, in their role of providing public education, are not doing it to give parents choices.  They simply do not have the money to provide choice.  That most urban areas offer different schools beyond neighborhood schools - call them magnet, option, alternative, whatever - is a function of economies of scale, not because they believe parents deserve choice.

So this idea that we need charters because we need choice seems false to me (especially given the state of the economy).  If a school is consistently low-performing and district efforts fail, then the state should take it over (and indeed the bill has this aspect in it).  

As adults, we know the world isn't fair and really, we can advocate for better but we can't change how others view it.   McGilvra operates more on the end of a private school than most public schools in this district but the parents there are able to create that model.   I don't see it as good or bad; it just is. 

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what happens to McGilvra over the next few years. The changes brought about by the district voiding the contract caused a much larger than average outflux of families last year. It is a much more diverse school this year than it was 2 years ago, along numerous dimensions. This change in demographics will likely reduce the amount the PTA can raise over time.

There are definitely more strains on the school as they try to accommodate more students from outside the attendance zone that require more individualized help.
A third of McGilvra's students come from outside the attendance zone, per the school district reports.
The reading specialist and the counselor that are paid for by the PTA disproportionately help these students. The PTA budget discussions noted that teachers are looking for even more help like this from the PTA for next year, as they expect more change next year.

I'm not sure what's fair or unfair, but things are definitely changing.

Note: the $60K was the price the district had to pay to buy back the 2 portables back from the PTA. The district needs these portables to continue to house the increase in students.

Anonymous said...

Ooops, forgot to sign my comment above.

McGilvra Watcher

Anonymous said...

In this case, it sounds as if students of need are going to be penalized because they were carried along with the tide of better service via PTA funding. I think I've got it right. Then why does it benefit anyone to mess with it? Where's the common sense in that?

n...

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, we may have a little experiment in process here: a school with the same teachers but a different population of kids. Is that right? Let's watch test scores and see if how test scores change . . . if they do. I'll be interested.

n...

Melissa Westbrook said...

MW, thanks for that update. I was wondering if that was for the portables.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brian Rosenthal, for letting the cat out of the bag. This is not about parental involvement but parental income. Separate and unequal schools were overturned by the Brown case.

I wonder how many of these families send their kids to (another) private school once they leave McGilvra (or the others on the $$$$ list).

Notice how the board president, DeBell, refuses to address this issue because of its "political sensitivity."
Is that code for "I'm afraid it will affect my reelection" or
"I'm afraid some wealthy people might get mad at me"?

Either way, it sounds like DeBell is too "sensitive" for the job, and needs to learn to put fairness and ethics ahead of his spinelessness.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

enough already --
hmm...i'm not sure exactly what you're so happy about here. yes, a number of families left mcgilvra to go to private schools last year, which is a loss to all the non-wealthy mcgilvra students who benefited from their PTA donations. mcgilvra has high levels of parental involvement in the classrooms, including a successful 1-on-1 tutoring program that helps kids who are behind in reading. tearing down a successful school doesn't help other schools or needy kids.
signed,
let's raise everyone up

Anonymous said...

This changing demographic for MacGilvra will definitely be something to watch in both test scores, as "n..." notes, and in school economics.

If a portion of PTA funds are to be shared, there should definitely be some factor in the equation that takes the number of FRL students in the school into consideration. A school like Graham Hill with a strong PTA that comes primarily from the 40% non FRL families raises much less than a school like MacGilvra (was), AND the funds it does raise do benefit the 60% of students that are FRL. Should a percentage of that relatively meager pot be spread around to a school with no PTA, but possibly less FRL students? Will schools with marginal non-FRL families sit back and let the schools with bigger non-FRL populations fund them? The scenarios could play out in many different ways.

It is a GIANT can of worms, and very complex. I must admit that the only true solution is for our government (and thus the taxpayers) to fund all schools for items WELL ABOVE the basics. But I honestly don't see that happening in my lifetime.

Solvay

Anonymous said...

Just a small fyi - to wit, not whit. :-)

Ramsey

Anonymous said...

I'd say this is a case of fairness trumping academics. I would ask why not let McGilvray have their cake and let other schools demand a cake of their own. The "Seattle Way" is to just eliminate the good for fear of offending those who don't have it so good.If we want a strong public school system we have to accept that there are wealthy people and poor people, gifted and not, advantaged and not so much. That is life and we should try to bring all kids up to their maximum not lower the bar so as to make it appear that we are what we are not.

Disgusted

Anonymous said...

I agree with Disgusted. Some of the spiteful, resentful comments aimed at McGilvra's parents are over the top.

Shall we divvy up all the new equipment Ingraham got from ESPN in it's gym makeover too? Because it's so unfair?

If the same comments were directed at the poorest FRL school in town, people would be up in arms & going ballistic.
It's not the McGilvra community that's de-funding and starving your local school. Give them a break.

Talk about fairness! It goes both ways folks. Show some class. Sheesh. WSDWG

dw said...

I'm also on board with disgusted (and I have nothing to do with McGilvra, nor do I know any of those families personally).

This is Seattle: If I can't have it, then you can't either. Nyah nyah nyah. But in this case, as Disgusted said, it's "fairness" (kinda sorta, more like equality) trumping academics. That's BS.

Perhaps there's a place for a small pool to share funds between schools, but if it's more than a small percentage, then the district is just throwing away money because people are naturally inclined to help their own kids first. I remember reading a couple years ago about a district that tried it and failed (in CA?). Their donations just dried up. This is probably why other districts are taking some smaller percentage. Portland's situation is far from perfect, go read about the difficulties they're having with grants to get money from the shared pool.

If rules are put in place here to share funds, and it's more than a very small percentage, then people are just going to find other ways to help their school. Back channels will start appearing to fund specific projects or goals, etc. And if those are closed off, people will just stop donating and/or leave SPS. And for those who say "good, we don't need 'those kind' in SPS", remember, you're not helping yourself in the process, you're only hurting other kids. But that's Seattle, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

perhaps something like this eastside organization could help? http://www.lwsf.org/

-520 commuter

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