Friday, August 05, 2016

Should PTAs Reveal Their Budgets?

At the Tuesday Open Thread, I noticed a discussion going on over this Facebook post from some members of Soup for Teachers (partial):
We need your help. We are a small group of parents with kids in public elementary schools in Seattle who are seeking some data from parents from all public elementary schools in the Seattle School District.

Parents play a critical role in the success of our public schools in Seattle.   Parent fundraising for individual schools is also an important component of what we parents do to improve Seattle Schools overall. While each school’s parents groups independently raises varying levels of money for their school, how money gets spent at schools is important. Often, that money is used to augment programs available at school, provide stop gaps for district funding shortfalls, and offer important things like scholarships for school fees, if there are any. The real impact of parent fundraising has not been enumerated and it should be.
As such, we are requesting that parents from as many Seattle Public elementary schools to do two things:
1. Submit their school’s budget for the 2015 to 2016 school year that includes parent fundraising contributions and how they are allocated to SeattleSchoolsSurvey@gmail.com. This should include grants that parents were responsible for obtaining. We only need one budget per school.

2. Complete a very short survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/75V52FW. The survey will help contextualize budgets and general opinions about parent fundraising efforts. This could be as many parents as possible from each school.

We are collecting budgets and surveys through August 30, 2016. All surveys provided will be confidential. We will combine data from budgets and surveys provided and no individual school names will be reported. We may report out by areas, for example, in North Seattle… Budgets will be analyzed for amount of funds raised, per student by area of Seattle, how parent contributions are used (staffing, afterschool programming, etc.), and data from surveys will analyzed for themes that emerge from responses. Our process for analyzing data collected will be inclusive of the wider community.

If you have any questions before you choose to participate, please email SeattleSchoolsSurvey@gmail.com.

Yours in community activism,
Jay Gilvydis, Liza Rankin, Chandra Hampson
The issue seems to be whether laying out - for both the district and the state - what Seattle PTAs raise and what they spend it on will interest/compel those two entities to better consider funding.

My opinion is that, in the end, it would hurt more than help.  I could see people getting very upset over the high sums raised by some PTAs but that is something neither the district nor the state can change.  It may create division among parents when there should be unity on getting full-funding for all the schools in our state. 

Naturally, what we are seeing is that more PTAs are raising funds for teachers and staff (and, in some cases, basic maintenance) and that should be made known to the legislature.  I believe the district is well-aware of the funding happening and love it.

What may not be widely-known on this topic is that some principals, like Ingraham's Martin Floe, do not allow their PTAs/PTOs to pay for staff.  Floe told me years back that it is a great burden to the PTA to fund someone's job year after year and he worries about when they wouldn't be able to continue to do so and he would have to end that position (or find the funds on his own.)  I agree with him.

As well, if people believe that there should be sharing of fundraising dollars among PTAs, that's an issue to take up with the WSPTSA and the SCPTSA. 

So here were some of comments at this blog:

I'm somewhat alarmed that the Soup for Teacher's folks are trying to go find PTA budgets. Just like the Randy Dorn lawsuit this probably has potential to harm individual schools without actually fixing the budget issue. I wish people would spend their energies on the election advocating for legislative candidates around the state who support their positions instead.
- CaveatEmptor

Blogger Liza Rankin said...
It's an independent group of parents. Since PTAs are all 501(c)3s, budgets are public info anyway, but available documents are a couple of years behind. The reason for asking for them is to show legislators and the public where those dollars really go, and how much parent fundraising is paying for basic education in our district. It's too easy for legislators to argue that parent fundraising doesn't have a meaningful impact on inequities when they think it's just bake sales and book fairs, but in many schools it's really classroom assistants, counselors and nurses, arts education, and math and reading specialists - things all schools should have as part of state-funded education. Individual schools will not be identified with their budget in any released report. 
Lynn said...


Liza,
Charitable organizations are required to disclose their annual tax returns and their application for tax exemptions. I don't believe they must disclose anything else. The state public records act doesn't apply to them. 

 -HarrisonB
The end state of this while well meaning is most likely to be restrictions on PTA's spending rather than increased funding from the gov't. For instance, this would be an awesome way to kill the language immersion schools or IB programs in the name of equity. *sigh*


@Harrison. I totally agree. Again we end up with school pitted against school instead of keeping the focus on the legislature properly funding education. I hope PTAs don't share their budgets. It will just be another distraction from the real issue of properly funding schools.
Divisive



Anonymous Lynn said...
Agree with prior comments that this is not helpful. There is a theory making the rounds that parents whose children attend schools supported by PTA contributions aren't fighting for adequate state funding as hard as they should be and that this would be rectified if their children were less comfortable. The reality is that if conditions deteriorate, those who can remove their children will do so. Even parents at PTA-supported schools are much more aware of the funding crisis and willing to support solutions than uninvolved private school parents.

On the other hand, maybe this is just an attempt to gather information to inform the public. (The district already knows when parents pay staffing costs.) 


Liza Rankin said...
To clarify - some Soup for Teachers members are doing this study independently, not Soup for Teachers as a group. A professional researcher has initiated and is leading this study. @Lynn: "On the other hand, maybe this is just an attempt to gather information to inform the public. (The district already knows when parents pay staffing costs.) " Yes to this. How do we have productive conversations around equity and funding without knowing where the imbalances are and what people value and are paying for in their schools? "Fully fund" education is all well and good to demand, but what, exactly, is in that demand? The general public, and many within SPS, too, have no idea how different the funding and resources are between schools. It's truly jaw-dropping. It's not practical to demand change without having agency about how that change comes about. The Mayor is inserting himself into the opportunity gap discussion without having a real understanding of what that even means in our schools, and where his responsibility lies (safety, basic needs, housing). We will have a new State Superintendent and an opportunity to address problems with a new ally in that position, whether it be Reykdal or Jones. The more information we all have to arm ourselves with, the more informed our advocacy can be. The system is already being disrupted and threatened from many directions - having better information will enable specific demands, and more informed voters and school communities. No one wants to blame the more moneyed PTAs for making their schools the best they can be, or see those students lose what they have. But it makes "public schools" a bit of a falsehood - if one were to look at the public resources going to each school, with some being extremely effective and some struggling - an uninvolved person could assume that the struggling schools are doing something wrong, since it looks "equal" on paper, and think maybe charter schools or something would be a solution, or that there aren't good teachers in the "failing" schools, and that isn't the case. But right now only part of the story of why some schools are more successful than others is tangible.

72 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you have stated on this blog that you support sharing PTA funds and you expressed your concern about the inequity of funding. (People who argued against this position said that some schools get more money because of the weighted formula. That has been debunked because the needs of those students are not even close to being addressed by this extra money.)

You also have stated that groups that don't disclose their funding sources but support charters are like vampires and should be daylighted.

Why not daylight here? What's there to hide? If it's fair and equitable, then
shouldn't people be proud of their efforts to support their child's school?

This pushback sounds way too much like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump's resistance to releasing their tax returns.

If it's that threatening to release and share the truth about the PTA dollars at your child's public's school, then maybe what you're trying to hide shouldn't be going on in the first place.

FWIW

Melissa Westbrook said...

FWIW, I never said I supported sharing PTA funds. I said it's worth a discussion. As a former PTA co-president, I have mixed feelings.

I am concerned about inequitable funding but I would point the finger first at the legislature than I would any PTA. And, as I stated in the thread, the district has nothing to do with how much a PTA raises.

"You also have stated that groups that don't disclose their funding sources but support charters are like vampires and should be daylighted."

I don't understand what you are referencing but I'm pretty sure I never used the term "vampires."

I hardly think a PTA not wanting to release its budget is comparable to Trump and his tax returns but you can think what you want.

PTA is a private organization with a huge presence in our schools. But many group have a presence in schools and they don't release their budgets either.

And, as Liza stated, there are budgets available but they are a couple of years old. I don't fault a PTA for not having the most current one available.

Lastly, I'm not trying to hide anything nor I am shielding anyone. But again, what is the real purpose for this? You seem to think it's a different one than what the parents who are doing this survey say it is for.

You can have your opinion on whether PTAs should open their books but so what?

Jer said...

Hypocrisy Alert!!

Complaint after complaint about lack of transparency in SPS, but now we see a call for secrecy regarding PTSA money?

Transparency is always good in regards money.

Public School as in publicus, of the people. If it raises a commotion, then so be it, it probably should.

I want to see booster club money too. Can you imagine the dollars in athletics and performing arts at schools like Roosevelt and Garfield?

How about club budgets? Guess what a rocketry, mountain bike or DECA club spends?

Let's just lay it out and see what we got.

Anonymous said...

@Jer. The survey is only for elementary schools. I disagree with you about comparing PTA budgets. Right now, all of the focus should be on the legislature and the legislature fully funding schools. The last thing we need to do right now is create a divisive swirl.
SW

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jer, again, PTA is a private group; how would you compel any PTA to open its books? I'm not saying they shouldn't but how?

As well, I'm not sure there is a "we" in how much money any PTA, booster or club has. It's not public money.

StepJ said...

I lean towards being wary. Not every school has a PTA/PTO. As 'Equity' seems to have replaced Pre-K as the rally cause of the day, I am concerned that PTA's would be banned as not every school has one.

-StepJ

StepJ said...

I would like to add that I think the ladies efforts are commendable. I believe their efforts stem from a good place to help all of our students. I just don't have the same trust in the leadership of SPS.

Jer said...

"It's not public money."

It is sure subject to public oversight. There are district rules regarding all booster money and club money. They all have reporting requirements to principals.

Elementaries only? Too bad, but the huge sums are scandalous; what does John Stanford International bring in? 400k per year isn't it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jer, you are right that clubs and boosters do have to follow the rules. I actually haven't looked lately at the rules that govern boosters and club money but that is different from PTA money.

You also need to understand about JSIS and McDonald; it's no "scandal." Those schools raise that money for IAs in order to support the entire program there. The other elementary internationals have IAs paid for thru Title One funds. All the research says for language immersion programs to work, especially in elementary, there needs to be more than one speaker of the foreign language. It is a tremendous burden on those schools to raise that money but they know it's the only way to have a going program (and the district started these programs knowing the parents would have to raise the money or see the program not work.)

So the equity is there; all the elementary dual-language programs have IAs. None of them get paid for by the district.

Lynn said...

And so it begins. What is scandalous about the fundraising ability of JSIS's PTSA?

This data is being gathered to show legislators and the public where those dollars really go, and how much parent fundraising is paying for basic education in our district but also because we can't have productive conversations around equity and funding without knowing where the imbalances are and what people value and are paying for in their schools.

We don't need this information to calculate the cost of a basic education - the legislature has already defined that. Is the goal to identify additional items we'd like the state to add to that definition?

Where does equity come into this discussion? If we come to agreement on what the schools need, and the state meets those needs, is it a problem if the parents at a school provide for additional enrichments? Is there a difference between something like paying groups to perform at assemblies during the school day and paying for after school enrichment clubs?

JSIS students have classroom aides for 50% of the day but my child's school does not. Their classroom experience doesn't affect my child. My child's school benefits from lots of volunteer labor during the school day but the school my neighbor teaches at does not. How does the presence of volunteers in our classrooms affect students at other schools?

I want every school to have the ability to meet the needs of its students. Beyond that, I don't think I care about the extras.

Greenwoody said...

Gathering information is fine, no harm in that, but I'm not sure what the goal is here. Parents and PTAs should not have to be funding basics or programs in schools. We all need to be working as hard as we can to get the state legislature to fully fund our public schools. That is where the problem and the solution lies. If the goal is to show that parents are having to step in and use PTA funding to do what the state legislature ought to do, then that's valuable. But people should be wary of not going down the Randy Dorn path of blaming the victim.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, here are your own words from a search on this blog:

The Soup for Teachers group seems to be working hard to find "sister school" relationships for PTAs that have low membership or zero-low fundraising ability. I recall trying to do that when the principal at my sons' elementary school moved to a southend school that had a very small PTA. The distance and time factor made that relationship hard to grow. But I support what SforT is trying to do. There is expertise and help that even on a small scale could help parents at other schools.
5/15/2016

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. 1/28/2012


I have always been wary about where all the money goes throughout the district. Maybe it would be good for the district to publish the budgets (including PTA funds) for every single school so people understand the need and where money goes. 1/10/2015


HP, for those schools not in the PTA, I would think that all fundraising could go into the pool. I was a little disturbed at some of the comments of the Times that brush off how the inequities play out and suggest that parents might leave if any kind of sharing took place. 7/31/13

Does this mean that in the future, we only put foreign language immersion schools in wealthy communities that can pony up or poor communities where some costs can be covered by the feds? Last, is this system equitable to anyone? 3/19/2013

My intent is not to hurt anyone but to bring the clearest picture of what is happening in our district. Vampires are not the only ones who don't like sunlight. 6/10/2015
(Regarding math, not Charters)

FWIW

Anonymous said...

My concern would be how the district uses that info once they find out about it. Do they cut even more at those schools able to raise hefty funds, knowing the PTA will make up for it, much like Congress keeps doing to our National Parks everytime they get a sizable donation? Otherwise I support collecting that info & finding ways to equalize more among schools.

CT

Amy Hagopian said...

I'd like to vouch for the lead researcher on the PTA budget study, Jay Gilvydis. She's now the mom of a couple of elementary school students, but I've known her since she was an undergrad at Evergreen and worked in our office at the UW School of Medicine. She's a good researcher. Her interest is simply understanding the extent of private fundraising that is necessary to keep Seattle public schools afloat. That's worth knowing, and part of the discussion with Olympia. There are, of course, equity concerns around differential fundraising prowess from one school to the next. These issues are interesting and worth exploring. C'mon, people, let's daylight these budgets. What possible good could come from protecting the secret?

Anonymous said...

Jer's comments are exactly why people are wary of disclosing their budgets.

There are huge disparities in the PTAs/PTOs in this district, based on the parents' abilities to raise money. However, the disparities are even larger in kids who go to private school.

For one example, I know parents who could send their child to private school, but choose public middle or high schools for their music programs. Those parents then donate a portion of what they would have paid for private school tuition to their public school.

What parents choose to spend on their child or on their child's school is their own business. Charitable giving to other kids and other schools is commendable, but not required. When parents give to their public schools, I've always found that the money goes to all the students in the school, providing significant benefits to many students who have more substantial needs and/or whose parents couldn't afford to give.

However, the resentment shown on this blog and elsewhere towards schools and kids that are perceived to have "more" of anything is disheartening. And opening up the books invites people to use those numbers to resent what others have. Even when the books are opened, such as the school district records showing less is spent on HCC kids than on almost any other group in the district, there are many people who come on this blog and condemn the parents and the school district for the program.

For the record, my children have mostly not gone to the schools with the highest fundraising prowess and that's fine. I'm thankful for all the volunteers who give and who work to make our schools the best they can be.

Momof2


n said...

I believe that in the public venue all money should be transparent. Yes, it will cause some concern and emotional reactions, but disclosure seems like a no-brainer to me.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
reposter said...

Sigh- another commenter that can't read directions. From 9:48

"We already know PTA fundraising varies by school. It's no secret. One of the Seattle weekly papers published an article on it a few years back. If memory serves me, it actually showed the per student funding was still higher at lower SES schools, even factoring in PTA dollars. What is the ultimate goal here? If it is to increase total funding to schools, then let's focus on increasing total funding - work for increased state funding and for more public-private partnerships. PTA dollars can only go so far."

Anonymous said...

KCTS report on PTA fundraising ...

http://kcts9.org/programs/in-close/news/tale-two-schools

N by NW

Anonymous said...

Similar discussion (10 years ago), prompted by a Seattle Times article:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/schools-bank-on-parents-ability-to-raise-cash/

http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2006/12/schools-and-pta-fundraising.html

-another commenter

Anonymous said...

@Momof2 and @reposted anonymous 9:48. Well said. What is the point ultimately? I assume it is to get all schools adequately funded by the state. Let's keep the focus there.
SW

Meg Ferris said...

I am glad to hear this topic debated. I have long had mixed feelings about PTA fundraising. My kids have been/are students at Coe, McClure, QAE and Center. I've been a part of the PTA, as well as have served on the BLT at Coe. I've helped to bring some great programs to staff and students, such as Roots of Empathy, Zones of Regulation, SocialThinking, Sound Partners, and the World Peace Game. I say this because I am clear that there was little chance that any of these programs would have been at my children's schools had it not been for the PTAs having big budgets. Likewise, having reading specialists, music, art, and Tier II interventions. While I know that the programs were excellent, and contributed to the overall educational experience, I remain uncomfortable with how inequitable it is that a small handful of school have PTAs that can raise $50k or more. I also agree that it is a big burden on parents, principals and staff to have positions partially of full funded by PTA dollars. I saw this firsthand six years ago when school budgets were cut drastically in the 2010-11 budget cycle.

I am glad to have heard from Amy Hagopian that the research is being led by a cautious and experienced researcher. I think it is good for the Ledgislate to know how much they do not fund that really is basic education. But, I know that the numbers are complicated. There is a lot of money that passes through PTAs that could look like spending but isn't. Yet plenty of dollars are for things like pencils and paper, and even workbooks and textbooks. Each PTA gathering the data accurately represents a lot of work. Well, as I said--I'm glad that the research will be gathered by someone who is cautious and experienced.

In the end, the most important thing must be to keep all of our eyes on the prize: full funding for all schools. Full stop.

Anonymous said...

Similar discussion (2012):

http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2012/01/money-our-schools-and-ptsas.html

Comments are worth a read. The last comment in the post shows per student funding for a list of schools (PTA dollars included).

-another commenter

mirmac1 said...

No research necessary. Here is the information:

http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/Migration/Grants/2015-16%20Grants%20inventory.pdf

Frankly, inquiring minds need to recognize that PTA is made up of VOLUNTEERS, who have better uses of their time, other than satisfying curiosity. The link has the gist of what SfT is interested in. WhoTF cares whether the balance of a school's PTA budget goes towards buying gym t-shirts or reimbursing someone for refreshments. It's the issue of staffing that should matter. That's where the rubber hits the road.

We don't need a schism between all parents who love their children. If someone at SfT had asked me, I would've readily advised them how to collect this info. I believe that, rather than a survey, it would be helpful if concerned PTA members contacted the SCPTSA to alert us to specific issues. I remember hearing of an incident where the Principal (BLT? HA!) tried to strong-arm a PTA to fund his thing, versus what they had prioritized for years; who needs a math tutor, when Central says we should have a Testing Coordinator?!?!

The SCPTSA had a great Superintendent Leadership Breakfast this week. The theme: bonafide family engagement (FE) "our" way (not in name only, a hand-appointed task force, etc). I came away energized from SCPTSA President Sebrena Burr's presentation and will focus efforts to push our schools and district in this direction.

BTW, I was happy that someone linked Portland's work on FB. I had asked Bernardo (who's tasked to lead FE) for the info, but as is often the case, no answer/response/or follow-thru.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think this is good discussion, however, if you don't have most/all of the PTAs participating, I have to wonder exactly what the data will look like. I also think it likely that the members of SfT doing the research will have to wait until school starts to actually reach many PTA leaders. I'll have to ask them if they contacted the SCPTSA about this effort.

I also want to say thank you to all the readers who have pretty much ignored FWIW's comments which seem largely directed at me which is odd considering this discussion isn't about me and I'm not in a PTA anymore.

I said schools should publish their budgets (including PTA) but I didn't say it had to be detailed. Just like the district knows how much PTA puts into their system via funding FTE. I'm not sure drilling down will tell people as much as you might think. PTA boards vary from year to year so one year's budget might not be accurate as to an overall accounting of what has been happening at each school.

Again, I have no dog in this fight except to say that 1) I cannot fault any school community for raising money to serve their students especially at this time when neither the district or the state is fully supporting basic education and 2) while I'm happy to provide this forum, I think the real place for the discussion is with the SCPTA. I'll try to ask what they think about this effort and if they themselves will ask units to cooperate.

Anonymous said...

@Liza. I read your words, but I don't believe you. No one who has spent anytime looking at schools would assume that the reason a school with a high SES is doing better than a school with a low SES is because the school with the low SES is doing something wrong. Even SPS groups schools by FRL when comparing them to each other.

It seems to me that you think higher SES schools are getting things that lower SES schools don't get, and you want them to have those things too. You want the PTA info so you can use it to advocate for equity, as you define equity. Basically taking away things from some schools to give to poorer schools.

Why not just be honest about it? That is really the discussion. Do people think that parents should not be allowed to give money to schools unless the money is evenly divided...or perhaps divided so that schools with kids with more needs get more PTA money than schools with kids without as many needs.

I know you rationalize away all of the Title 1 money that schools get by saying there isn't much freedom with that money. Isn't that what you are trying to do? Take away choice from PTAs so that parents no longer have control over what is going to happen with the money they give to schools.
Honesty please

Ms206 said...

The PTA funds should be known to the public because the PTAs are supporting a public entity. In 2013-14, I taught at a school in a very low-income neighborhood in North Philadelphia. Our school was understaffed. Our school raised money mainly through weekly pretzel sales (which are common at public schools in Philly). However, some schools -- special admit and in wealthier neighborhoods -- with more active and more affluent Home and School Associations were able to buy back positions that had been eliminated due to budget cuts. So the kids who came from better-off families were getting more and the kids in high-poverty schools were getting what the school district gave them. It's completely unfair and unjust.

Personally, I think that either PTA/Home and School Association funds should be distributed across schools or there should be a 50-50 system where 50% of PTA/HSA funds go to your school and 50% go to support efforts at needier schools. There has to be a way to balance the common good and individual self-interest.

Anonymous said...

For accuracy's sake, any comparison of school funding should include the booster clubs: sports, arts/music, drama. I heard that just one of the booster clubs at another school raises $300K per year!

Momof2

Liza Rankin said...

In a discussion about transparency and honesty, it feels disingenuous to be accused of having a hidden agenda by someone who is not willing to own up to their statement and sign with their real name...That being said, no, I don't think it is equitable to take anything away from one school to give to another school. Equity means everyone gets what they need. Wealthier PTAs should not have to pay for basics for their schools, and less affluent PTAs should not have to go without basics or lose staff because they can't pay up. The Portland model is interesting and has a certain appeal, but it still doesn't solve the problem of parent fundraising being relied upon to fund basic education and staffing. As Amy Hagopian stated above, "interest is simply understanding the extent of private fundraising that is necessary to keep Seattle public schools afloat." The extras aren't the concern - it's basic classroom and office supplies, librarians and books, counselors, academic support, etc. Title 1 funds will be allowed to be used for counselors this year. That's great. Not great, is that schools who don't qualify for Title 1 funds have to pay for one themselves, if they want one. THAT is an issue of equity - the kids at more affluent schools deserve mental health and emotional support, too, and not at the expense of their PTA dollars that could go towards other enrichment for classrooms or community events as they so chose. An elementary school in the north end has consistently among the highest test scores in the district, but some of the lowest *individual* test scores, and no math or reading specialist. The struggling kids in affluent schools deserve the tools to succeed, just as much as kids who benefit from academic specialists paid for by Title 1 funds. My kid's PTA supplements a .5 librarian to be .6, when every school should have a librarian full time as part of basic education. Copier paper and pencils are basic, and shouldn't be coming from the pockets of parents (or all too often, teachers). Some pushback to this proposal was expected, but the outright hostility is surprising. SCPTSA is aware and some board members have expressed support, and in fact have said they've wanted to do the same thing in the past. The Seattle Council has no access to local unit budgets. The ask for info is independent, and participation is voluntary. Insufficient data would obviously mean the results would not be useful.

"Honesty," "No one who has spent anytime looking at schools would assume that the reason a school with a high SES is doing better than a school with a low SES is because the school with the low SES is doing something wrong" - there are PLENTY of people who HAVEN'T spent time in schools, who look at standardized test scores as THE measure of success, and still think they are the right ones to make decisions about public education. They blame teachers, unions, administrators, leadership, etc. They are the ones labeling schools as "failing" and calling for "innovation" "personalized learning" and for less democratic control of public schools (mayoral/appointed control) because they think they know better than educators and parents. Basic public education is the responsibility of the general public, and we should all be investing in it for the benefit of the students and the betterment of society, through fair taxation. Private funding enables an inequitable system. Or perhaps it doesn't - but without the data it's hard to say. You don't need to agree with me, but to accuse me of being dishonest isn't a great way to have a conversation.

Anonymous said...

Of course, some people who aren't familiar with schools will look at a test score and make a decision just based on that. I purposely left that group of people out when I made the comment. That's not what we're talking about here.

Basic public education is the responsibility of the state. I think that the focus should be on the state paying, not on parsing out how much each PTA contributes.

It's been documented over and over again that some schools raise more PTA money than others. What's your point? Are you trying to say that the reason some schools do better than others is because the PTA pays for some positions? I believe why some schools do better than others is a lot more complicated than that.

Are you saying it isn't fair? Well is it fair that Title 1 schools get counselors and other schools don't? No, but I'm not complaining about that. I would like all schools to get counselors. I'm fine prioritizing Title 1 schools. If some non-Title 1 schools pay for a counselor with PTA money, I'm okay with that as a temporary solution.

My point is that instead of arguing amongst ourselves, we should be working together to get adequate funding so that all schools get what they need, including counselors.
Honesty Please

Anonymous said...

One suggestion is that PTAs could simply state what percentage of overall school funding is provided by the PTA compared to district and other funding sources. We don't need all the details specific to each school's needs as detailed in their budgets if the point is simply to see overall how much schools are relying on PTA funds. Percentages will tell the story without the details.

Having said that, I also strongly believe we should put the majority of our efforts into advocating for state funding of public schools and that PTAs should be working to eliminate their fundraising and replacing it with a fully funded education as per the McCleary decision. Isn't it crazy that we are constantly paying money for services that should be provided in public schools?! If we keep doing it, however well meaning, they will keep expecting it.

BT

Melissa Westbrook said...

It's good to hear from the actual people doing the research so thanks, Liza.

"The extras aren't the concern - it's basic classroom and office supplies, librarians and books, counselors, academic support, etc. Title 1 funds will be allowed to be used for counselors this year."

I really agree with this statement.

"SCPTSA is aware and some board members have expressed support, and in fact have said they've wanted to do the same thing in the past."

I would seek more clarity on this statement. SCPTSA is "aware" so does that mean they are on-board and will help?

"One suggestion is that PTAs could simply state what percentage of overall school funding is provided by the PTA compared to district and other funding sources."

Good suggestions. How much is staffing, how much is for basic supplies, etc. A very basic pie chart.

You may, in the end, be able to say, "Look, at how many schools have to pay for basics." You know what some legislators will say, "Your district should be paying for those and if they are not, it's THEIR fault. They should cut administratively." Many in the legislature believe the money IS enough but it's not being spent wisely. There may be some truth in that but every - single - time I have asked any one who spouts this, "How would YOU change the spending?", all I get is crickets.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing this important issue to light. From now on I will be limiting my PTA donations, possibly eliminating them altogether.

Marcie

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is enough money, but what to cut is so obvious to me. No more "regional" executive directors. No more "school health" executive directors. Teaching and learning in half. No more principal coaches. Less frequent testing. No more vision/strategy consultants or strategic plans for at least 5 years. Very few teaching coaches. I think this central admin bloat also has the affect of lowering the quality of our principal corps. Not everyone can be a good principal, and many of those executive directors were excellent principals before they were sucked up into the effluvia.

I have never seen the district do anything other than take away when confronted with school to school data- never, ever, not one time, try to implement something that is working in other schools or readjust spending priorities. So I am wary of this project, because I fear the outcome is most likely just lower quality education for many students, not better for any. But I do think a pie chart presentation could be useful- the percentage of what should be a fluff budget going to basic needs.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

The money I donate will go to my school. If the money is transferred out of my school then I will not donate. I have already significantly decreased my private donations because of the decisions made by the central district (eliminating spectrum, watering down curriculum, hand-wringing emphasis on common core). ANY chance that the district will make decisions about my money will eliminate it. Completely. Furthermore, I do not want the district to know what I donate. It is no business of theirs.

I do like the pie chart suggestion, however. Good idea.

-SPSParent

Anonymous said...

@SPSParent-

Hopefully you are making your choice to reduce donations to your school heard by your PTSA, your principal, teachers, the board and the district administration.

It sounds like sour grapes to me, but maybe you can move the needle by threatening to cut off donations, I don't know.

Are you an active PTSA member and do you go to meetings and/or hold an office within PTSA?

I think Spectrum and "watering down curriculum" are policy decisions best tackled with emails, phone calls and testimony to the board, withholding money will do nothing in SPS, they really aren't swayed by parents with disposable income and threats, but keep up the effort.

As for the AI's at the immersion schools, agree it's scandalous that only the rich or the poor can get real access. Also the money that flows into HCC and the booster clubs.
I would guess we're talking millions for sports booster clubs, also endowments at northend schools, like scholarships and cash for 240 community service hours; does RBHS and Cleveland have that?

Sunshine is the best...

This is like Hillary hiding her speeches to Wall Street.

I've seen some questionable donations in my day like big parties for staff or artwork selected by the donor.

I think we do enough to get rich people donating with those silly auctions and etched bricks. It all makes the parents who don't have the cash and/or have kids on FRL feel like they don't belong 100% at their school.

Plus, only a few parents can find the time for PTSA and volunteering or have the skill-set.

We need more involvement and PTSAs by their bylaws exclude non dues paying parents!!

Disgraceful and borderline illegal.

Bill

Anonymous said...

MomOf2. Less is not spent on HCC students. More is spent on them, because less challenging students are in those buildings. Cascadia - has the lowest rates of special education and FRL, and that is the ONLY differential in funding per student at Cascadia. This isn't a mystery. And, the amount that is provided these challenging demographics - doesn't actually begin to cover the needs. Cascadia doesn't take on challenging students - and it isn't funded for them. That doesn't mean HCC gets "less funding per student", it means it get MORE because it is able to fundraise in addition to shirking challenges.


Also ironic - that "basic ed" to Lynn means one thing when she wishes to argue for keeping her PTSA largesse - but "basic ed" something totally different when she argues and argues for extra goodies for her kids via HCC. Seriously. Shouldn't all kids get microscopes in elementary school, multiple choices for foreign language in middle school, excellent music opportunities, summer trips to Washington DC in elementary to learn about government, many choices for high school, extra funding to pay for IB coordinators? Or are those thing only good for HCC? I think that gets at some of the inequity which is fueled by PTA and other monies.

Let's not pretend that school based inequity doesn't matter. It does. And it should be dealt with.

Count It

Anonymous said...

The microscopes are for middle school science. Are you also upset that the 4th graders have 6th grade math books to do accelerated math?

I recently learned Cascadia doesn't have the lowest funding in the district anymore. It was third last year, not sure about this coming. The SPED percentage is right around Bryant, Wedgwood, plenty of schools without a SPED program specifically placed in them. It's on the affluent side, but not an outlier or even at the top. It's the only actual advanced learning in the district anymore, so if you want to direct some ire, send it to housing segregation and the failure of the district to use boundaries to help, and siphoning classroom money to countless useless central admin. Not at the only advanced learning we really have or at parents helping fund a librarian for all kids at a school, which always, always includes dozens if not hundreds of FRL kids. It's not remotely as good as funding from the legislature, where it should come from. But it's a good thing. Like soup kitchens. Not a way to actually feed the populace. But a terrible idea to shut down.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Alife Kohn--Only for My Child:

"Organizing the less-powerful parents: Rather than directly oppose the parents who demand the preservation of programs that benefit only their own children, Jeannie Oakes advises educators to reach out to all the other parents, to “build community advocacy for an equity agenda” so that school board members, administrators, and politicians hear from everyone with an interest in the issue, instead of just from the elite.

At the very least, people typically lacking in wealth, self-confidence, or political savvy can be provided with the skills to be more effective advocates for themselves and their children. Ultimately, though, we want not only to have more parents demanding that their own children get more resources, but to build a constituency for a fairer, more effective sort of schooling for all children.

Respecting a moral bottom line: Educators should do all they can to bring parents aboard, to persuade and inform and organize, but in the final analysis there are some principles that have to be affirmed and some practices that cannot be tolerated. As one Maryland educator put it, “We’re not in the business of educating one group of students. As professionals we’re responsible for educating everyone, and there are things that we must not do. That’s a moral and professional issue.” "

Liza Rankin: Take your research plan to the Southeast parents' groups and cultural advocacy groups. The majority of parents in this district will welcome the chance to reveal and evaluate the funding at their PUBLIC schools (plural intended). You are barking up the wrong tree on this blog. It is heavily tilted toward a small group of loud people who don't look beyond their "own" school or program bubble.

FWIW

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Also the money that flows into HCC and the booster clubs."

I'm sorry but I'm pretty sure that there is no comparison to what Cascadia and Thurgood Marshall raise as compared to booster clubs. Let me know when you get the data if I'm wrong.

"...cash for 240 community service hours.."

What is this, where is this and what is your documentation?

"This is like Hillary hiding her speeches to Wall Street."

Or, like Trump refusing to release his tax returns.

"Plus, only a few parents can find the time for PTSA and volunteering or have the skill-set."

So no fundraising that benefits the entire school. No volunteering which helps teachers in the classroom or allows field trips to happen. No after-school clubs or activities. It doesn't take much of a skill-set to be a parent who helps out. Fund-raising or advocacy, maybe, but not general-purpose volunteering. And, to point out, there are always jobs that are not during school hours or at school.

"More is spent on them (HCC), because less challenging students are in those buildings."

Sleeper, can you cite your sources for that, please? That's not how it generally works but let us know.

"Cascadia - has the lowest rates of special education and FRL."

For all elementaries or what?

"...multiple choices for foreign language in middle school,"

Is there any comprehensive middle school that offers only one language? I honestly don't know so let us know which one(s) they are.

"..extra funding to pay for IB coordinators?"

IB is a program that any student can access. Apparently you missed that story about every student at RBHS. Currently, they will be the only IB school that is fully-funded.

"Let's not pretend that school based inequity doesn't matter. It does. And it should be dealt with."

Absolutely. What is your solution?

Anonymous said...

Can I cite my sources for which thing? Did you mean Count It? I just looked at the ospi report cards for sped rates, and someone a couple threads ago said I think Bryant and Loyal Heights had lower per pupil funding.

--sleeper

Anonymous said...

correction: Alfie Kohn

George Polya's four stages of problem solving:

Understanding the problem
Devising a plan
Carrying out the plan
Looking back

You can't do Step One when people are stonewalling or supporting the stonewalling of the evidence gathering process. This entire pushback stems from a fear of losing out something on one's own turf and cannot possibly lead to any solution for a better system.

Saying you "absolutely" support equity yet are supporting the attempt to silence or shut out people who are actually working toward a solution is not tenable and winds up being empty words.

FWIW

Melissa Westbrook said...

"...someone a couple threads ago said I think Bryant and Loyal Heights had lower per pupil funding."


That's data? And I asked, "For all elementaries?" Not the rate, but what are you comparing it to?

Anonymous said...

I am not the person who said "Cascadia has the lowest rates of sped and FRL" or the quote you pulled above it about less challenging students. That is Count It, not me.

I wrote a paragraph about how it has actually become more complicated than that. Yes- elementaries. From the 2015-2016 proposed budget.

-sleeper

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thinking about it, it's likely that most principals know how much money flows from PTA to their schools. The principals know if they pay for staff, if they have a field trip fund for low-income students, buy supplies for teachers, pay for maintenance or buy equipment. As well, schools that tend to raise more money provide the principal with some discretionary dollars for work that he/she believes supports the school.

As well, I'd bet the district's head of Athletics knows very well how much money booster clubs give to the district in the form of - again - funding for low-income students, equipment, travel, etc.

Principals and the district might be a faster way to find out what is funded. (That wouldn't be all that the PTA spends its money on but there are fundraising costs and administrative costs.)

Anonymous said...

I have sympathy for both sides of the argument here - but both sides remind me of a very similar argument going on at a more professional level:

http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/12/news/companies/women-men-pay-difference-uk/index.html

-NW Mom

Anonymous said...

Here we go...one side fighting against another side. How is this helpful?

There's not enough money right now. That's the reality. And the district is choosing to spend the money it does have on things that many of us would not choose to spend money on such as bloated administration. Schools are using different things to fill the gaps. Some schools use Title 1 monies, some use PTA monies, some schools don't have Title 1 or generous PTA monies and try and do the best they can with what they've got.

The solution is to fully fund schools. Let's not waste time arguing. Let's do what we can to make the legislature fully fund schools. Fighting the legislature to fully fund schools is a big lift. Let's put our energy there.
SW

Anonymous said...

In older budgets, school funding per pupil is shown for each school (broken down by Basic, Spec. Ed, ELL, and Grants & other):

http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Budget/Budget%20Book%202015-2016/2015-16%20Budget%20Book%20updated%2006162015v2.pdf

Basic per pupil funding (average per pupil funding) for a random handful of elementary schools:

Bryant $4,806 ($5,523)
Loyal Heights $4,777 ($5,638)
Wing Luke $6,163 ($10,524)
Gatzert $6,231 ($10,747)
APP@Lincoln $5,046 ($5,411)

Average per pupil funding = total budget/total FTE, and includes Spec. Ed, ELL, and grants. Per pupil spending at Lincoln is on the low side. I'm not sure how one can claim they are getting more $ per student (even if PTA money were to be included).

FWIW, what problem are you trying to solve?

-another commenter

Anonymous said...


It's been a couple years but McClure only had only Spanish, no jazz, beginning and advanced orchestra were taught together. Not that it wasn't a great school, but compared to Denny or Hamilton or Eckstein, pretty darn "equitable".

The 1000 dollar scholarship for 240 service hours is at Ballard, at least, and many kids go for it. It's alumni funded.

Would Ballard PTSA and their booster clubs like to share? Maybe they wouldn't need to. Maybe the other high schools also have strong booster donors. We'll never know if it's all hush-hush.

One way the district already levels the field a bit is by putting the $100,000+ long timers who are sort of just coasting into the richer schools and the cheaper, younger, more productive staff at poor schools. So maybe the district already knows everything, as Melissa said, principals should know exactly what the numbers are and so does HQ.

This could actually back-fire if it shows the district is overcompensating for the money flowing into wealthy schools.

dandelion

Charlie Mas said...

Surely the "self help" budget for each school is known and reported.

What is to be done about the differences in fundraising ability among schools? To me, the answer is to restrict the uses for non-competitive grants to things outside of Basic Education. School A can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they can't spend it to reduced class size or to reduce the student:teacher ratio. Not only because of equity concerns, but also due to the state law that requires parity among schools.

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Anonymous said...

This discussion reveals the sad and troubling degree to which discussions of funding in Seattle schools is driven by resentment and petty jealousy. It makes no sense to go after parents who raise money for their own schools because they are trying to make up for the state's failure to fund our schools - unless it's driven by pure spite. Which, honestly, there's a lot of out there right now.

The only answer here is for the state to increase the amount of money it gives to all schools in the district, so no parent anywhere has to fundraise. This idea that some have, that they can make local PTSAs share the money districtwide, is just wrong. SPSParent above explained what will happen: parents are not going to donate if they're not confident the money goes to their kids. So the result is everyone suffers.

Which I suspect is the goal. For those driven by resentment, they don't care about what kids need - they just want those other parents to be knocked down a peg or two.

I do not understand why SCPTSA or anyone affiliated with SCPTSA would support this divisive and destructive move, unless they're carrying water for the people who want to sell our schools to Wall Street.

-Unity Matters

Anonymous said...

Right sleeper. What on earth would average elementary students do with microscopes? My kid really needs access to advanced materials like microscopes, so the district must provide it, and it does. General Ed kids get the science kits. I admit, these are often broken or lost, but that's an operational problem. Why shouldn't our pta provide as much enrichment as possible? That's advanced learning that is free for the district. And Lynn's right. As long as the district provides other kids with nsf science kits, why should anybody care about the education my kid gets? Remember, equity doesn't mean equal.

Curious

Anonymous said...

Good grief! Thank you to SFT for trying to help solve the funding puzzle, but I cringe as I read the mud slinging and imagine the negative outcomes of this conversation (minimally funded Common Core-driven Gen Ed for ALL).

The person who commented that HCC kids are easier to teach and therefore those schools deserve less per pupil funding needs to spend time learning about the gifted learner and sit in a classroom at Cascadia for 30 minutes. Your comments are mean and misinformed. My child experienced less distraction and emotional trauma in our neighborhood school. Many HCC students are 2e and many have IEP's because they have anxiety issues, have trouble managing their emotions, and other problems I still haven't wrapped my head around, all of which create stressful classroom environments. And supposedly the curriculum for the HCC student is supposed to provide for deeper learning, which should not be a less expensive approach to teaching. This isn't happening, btw, so don't get stressed that your child is missing something.

The reason people have concerns about sharing funding information is because data gets misrepresented, typically to stick it to the northend schools or HCC students. For example, the recent illustration of test scores used to make it look like HCC students staying in neighborhood schools outperform HCC students in the cohort model.

Go ahead, look at the data! Great idea! You will find parents at the north end schools are working hard to fill gaps and support their kids, but the overall per student funding that comes in from outside sources is higher at many south end schools. What may be revealing is which schools fall through the cracks because they don't get the grants or the parent support. I would guess our friends in the north central and far north areas are creeping into this scenario as gentrification becomes more prevalent.

Bottom line: we all agree funding is not high enough at any school, and there are inequities abound, but please don't start the game of which school/student deserves LESS funding because they have "easier" students. That's a baseless way to discuss equity.

--rat hole

Anonymous said...

Curious, the hcc kids get the exact same science kits. They get 1 extra kit per year to compact the science curriculum and end up "advanced", but it is 100% the same materials and curriculum your kid gets, just at a different time, and for less time per kit. Microscopes come as part of the 6th (7th?) grade science kits. Your kid(and my gen ed kids) gets them the next year, and mine does not get to use one then.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

SPS offers schools that are STEM, Montessori, immersion, HCC, experiential.... parents opt in (if they make it through the lottery or pass the HCC exams) and SOMEtimes give more to fill in the gap to help pay for the customized programming. If those who don't attend option schools are worried more money is raised at option schools or the option school is better than their neighborhood school, maybe they should attend the option school.

If parents want all public schools to be the same, then there will be a rise in support of charters and a mass exodus to private. I guess this will help solve the capacity crisis.

wasted nrg

Anonymous said...

According to the "SPS Grants Inventory 2015-16" as posted by mirmac, PTAs collectively fund 41.15 FTEs (out of 554.33 grant funded FTEs, around 7% of total). Around 40% of those PTA funded positions are for JSIS (8 FTE) and McDonald (8 FTE). McGilvra (3.25), View Ridge (2.60), Coe (2.35), and Stevens (2.20) are next on the list of most PTA funded FTEs. Many PTAs are partially funding counselors, librarians, nurses, playground monitors, tutors, reading specialists, etc. Very few PTAs are funding core classroom teachers.

When you see the list, you have to wonder why PTAs are having to fund such basics. The outliers are JSIS and McDonald (8 FTEs?!) On the whole, resentment about disproportionate fundraising or the implication that schools are buying down class sizes seems very misplaced (as do the attacks on HCC).

-good grief

Anonymous said...

Agree with SPSParent--the minute any money that I've personally donated is slated to go outside of my kid's schools, I will stop donating entirely. I've already significantly reduced donations because I believe it enables the Legislature to continue to not fund schools properly.

NE parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

"What may be revealing is which schools fall through the cracks because they don't get the grants or the parent support. "

I agree.

Good Grief, JSIS and McDonald are funding IAs to support their dual language program. That's why they have so many PTA-paid FTEs.

TechyMom said...

I donated to my elementary school to pay for an art teacher, a math specialist and a councilor. I got to vote on how the money was spent, and meet the people it hired.

If that money went to the district, they'd waste it on an executive director of strategic strategy (or something), just like they do with my tax money. What's my motivation in this scene, again?

Anonymous said...

And this is out of ~5034 teaching and support ftes altogether, so ptas fund .8% of school level ftes? About half of which is languange immersion support?

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Maybe you aren't as inequitable as you thought you were!

This research may actually turn out to help you have a better conscience.

Who would've thought?

FWIW

Anonymous said...

I thought the new school board we elected was going to FIX things? Seems like more of the same old same old with the head count at JSCEE growing and no improvements in the classroom.

I guess we need wait for the next election.

Reality Bites

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, we actually have to give the Board time. The district is a tanker to be turned. You can't just flip it overnight.

Cap hill said...

The SPS Grant Inventory is incorrect, or at least incomplete. For example, no Garfield PTSA grants listed. I would imagine the real number is 50% higher. Probably better level of accuracy when the grant flows through the JSC. Everything the PTSA's do is publicly available information - all you need to do is get their tax ID and you can look up their tax return. Maybe the researchers are just too lazy to do this...

The disincentives for PTSA's sharing it are obvious. 1) the JSC trying to claim it and 2) the "equity police". Absolutely parents should be able to and encouraged to donate to their local school. This can and should happen even if overall school funding goes up. And yes, this creates an inequality. Inequalities are part of life.

mirmac1 said...

Cascadia has the lowest $$/student; $400/student lower than schools "without a SPED program specifically placed in them." That would be resource room which is the least expensive service delivery method for students with the mildest SLDs staffed at 18:1:1.

The high funding going to schools with specific SPED programs and must be spent, for the most part, on those students with disabilities who bring nearly double funding with them to access an education.

As an SCPTSA board member, I heard of the survey late last week. Again, I would've gladly offered my assistance with locating public information. I think that asking short-handed volunteers to pull this info together is burdensome and minimally helpful. There are ready sources available to collect this data.

mirmac1 said...

From 16-17 School Budgets

Cascadia Elem $5,615
JStanford Elem $5,974
McDonald Elem $6,004
Queen Anne Elem $6,152
Bryant Elem $6,115
Alki Elem $6,183

Anonymous said...

You're so right sleeper. Gen Ed kids can wait for microscopes. They couldn't learn anything from them in elementary. And if they're slow or sped, they might not ever need one.

Curious

Anonymous said...

Why is there 1 number in your list, and two in another commenters, I wonder?

I went to look at the 2016-2017 budget book(didn't see per pupil funding) and have renewed outrage at bloated central admin. 10% increase in central admin fte over the last two years. Less than 3% teacher fte increase. Giant bloat in "other support." 18 million dollars on "supervision of instruction"(no this is not principals). Must be happy has clams to see us squabbling over 19 partial librarian salaries and whether they are apportioned in a way everyone votes to agree with.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Hey, I have gen ed kids, curious. Most people with hcc students do. It's not less, any more than third grade is "less" than fifth grade (oh no, my first grader who is in no way ready for 3rd grade math is not getting the opportunity to learn multiplication and is instead working on appropriately levelled math! Unfair!), or that my hcc student is getting "less" by getting less time with each individual science kit(less depth!) than my gen ed kids. Enough. They get the materials for the science units that every single sps student gets. Nothing more. If you have a beef with the sps gen ed curriculum pace for science, that's fine, but it has been great for my gen ed kids. I don't feel like they needed to blow through it like my other kid. They are learning a lot, and it's not a race.

-sleeper

Melissa Westbrook said...

Once again, a discussion that has worn thin. We'll end it here for now.