Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Back to the PTA Fundraising Sharing Discussion

We're revisiting this issue because it seems to be receiving more and more attention, both nationally and here in Seattle.  Again, this comes back to the question of equity which gets trickier because PTA is a private organization that encourages both kinds of parent engagement -  funding and volunteering in their child's public school.

I was reminded of this by a recent op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald.  Here's their headline which flips the idea of contributing money to your child's school on its ear:

Contributing to Inequity: White Parents Must Act to Change Seattle Public Schools’ Opportunity Gap
The piece was written by Hayden Bass and Vivian van Gelder who are parents of students in Seattle Public Schools.  Here's their basic premise:
White parents, then, are uniquely situated to challenge institutional racism in our education system – and conversely, to uphold the status quo by resisting the understanding that our system, as it is currently designed, does not distribute opportunity fairly.
So what to do?


A necessary first step is to educate ourselves about the historical and continuing factors driving our district’s shameful opportunity gap.
These factors include poverty, redlining (which segregated the city), the way our educational system values white middle-class knowledge, behavior and priorities and a white teaching force.

I will submit at this point that it is hard to get more teachers of color because of the demoralization of teachers, the low salaries and the piling on of work/expectations.  Heck, we will have fewer teachers at all because of what has happened to the lack of valuing of teachers.  Why would a young person want to choose teaching as a profession?  We DO need more teachers of color but it's going to be a heavy lift.

I had a problem with a couple of parts of the piece.  Bass and van Gelder are speaking of the Black Lives Matter day last October.
But many white parents – especially in the north end, where few students of color live – wrote angry emails in response.
It is true; there are far fewer students of color in the north end but that there are "few students" is just not true especially up to the far north near the city border.  I tutored in a north end school that was very diverse.

Our district has the worst opportunity gap between white and black students in the state, and the fifth worst in the nation

They also make this statement which I want to somewhat qualify because it is important to get clarity because the people who were first to state this fact did so.  One reason that gap is so huge is because SPS students who are white do better than most other white students in other districts in the state.   That doesn't make the gap less urgent or important but it does explain its rank.

Their suggestion for PTA is this:

One practice we believe needs immediate examination is PTA fundraising for school day programming. 

It's a little unclear what they mean by "programming" but I think they do mean PTA funding of staff.

While SPS attempts to engage in more equitable budgeting that aims to address this imbalance, the truth is that the gap is so large it cannot begin to do so.

This is true.  While schools with more poverty do get more funding via Title One and LAP, those are restricted funds and those schools are also unlikely to be able to fundraise as other schools can.

Our district’s track record shows  if we white parents were to collectively urge SPS to address race and equity on a sustained basis, we would be very likely to see results. If we’re brutally honest with ourselves, many of us hesitate to act out of fear that speaking out against inequity will require us to make what feel like unbearable sacrifices.  

I see two different calls here and both are valid.

One is saying that more parents should speak up on issues of race and equity.  I will caution that although I believe the overwhelming majority of parents believe in this cause, they may not all agree on the best way to get there.  That's a key issue that the district doesn't want to hear.  There are multiple ways to more equitable schools and I think the floor should be open to all of them.

Two, those "unbearable sacrifices" would mean shifting how PTA/PTO funds can be used and, possibly, asking that some percentage of funds raised somehow go to schools with higher student poverty levels.

Naturally, this is a personal issue that is also a schoolwide and district-wide issue.  Parents are supporting their child's school financially which is a good thing.  But that financial support is causing a widening resource gap for other schools and the entire district.  Not a good thing.

They do have a link to a very good study from the Center for American Progress called Hidden Money: The Outsized Role of Parent Contributions in School Finance from April 2017.
Throughout Washington, D.C., and around the country, parents are raising hundreds of thousands—even millions—of dollars to provide additional programs, services, and staff to some of their districts’ least needy schools.7 They are investing more money than ever before: A recent study showed that, nationally, PTAs’ revenues have almost tripled since the mid-1990s, reaching over $425 million in 2010.8 PTAs provide a small but growing slice of the funding for the nation’s public education system.
That last sentence is certainly true for SPS; PTA is the largest source of grants.
In the majority of states, per-pupil spending in high-poverty districts is about equal or more than per-pupil spending in affluent districts.

These numbers, however, do not illustrate the full picture of funding discrepancies. Average district per-pupil spending does not always capture staffing and funding inequities. Many districts do not consider actual teacher salaries when budgeting for and reporting each school’s expenditures, and the highest-poverty schools are often staffed by less-experienced teachers who typically earn lower salaries. Because educator salaries are, by far, schools’ largest budget item, schools serving the poorest children end up spending much less on what matters most for their students’ learning.

Parent donations only further the current funding inequities at the district and school levels. What’s more, because districts and schools do not readily report the use of private contributions, the dollars are not included as part of national, state, district, and school funding comparisons. When private dollars are taken into account, it is evident that the education finance system benefits the affluent—it does not, in Horace Mann’s own words, serve as “the great equalizer.”
It is not helpful to any discussion about funding if ALL the funding sources are not clearly laid out.  Again, PTA and booster groups are private but it would seem if they are funding programs/staffing at  schools, then all the money should be included, in detail, in any budget. 

Because of this, parent donations can have a greater influence in states or districts with low per-pupil spending, with every $1 equal to a greater proportion of overall spending. In these regions, parents can supplement public spending to minimize the tough budgeting decisions that will affect student learning.
State leaders should promote greater transparency of private contributions, and district leaders should create systems to allocate all resources equitably.
This is true in Washington state and Seattle because of our state's long-term under-funding of schools.

What do they suggest? Overall:

Districts can take policy actions—such as pooling a portion of parent donations or regulating the use of those donations—to benefit higher-poverty schools without substantially reducing overall parent contributions.
  • Support partnerships between schools across the socioeconomic spectrum
  • Select and implement an approach to tackle the inequities of parent donations by conducting an analysis of the impact these donations have on districts, as well as an assessment of the political will to redistribute funding within the community. These approaches include: 
    • Creating equity funds to redistribute donations to schools with the greatest need
    • Imposing restrictions on districts’ usage of donations 
    • Incorporating predicted parent donations into school budgets 
    • Encouraging donations that promote district-wide benefits 
Also addressed in this article is the fundraising in Seattle schools versus Portland schools.
Since the beginning of the program, the Portland Public Schools Foundation, or PPSF, has enabled schools to start their own Local School Foundations to raise private dollars to pay for in-school staff positions. These foundations must give one-third of their total revenues—after the first $10,000—to the district foundation. In turn, the PPSF gives dollars to schools based on a formula that accounts for several factors: PTA funds, local school foundation funds, previous equity grants, federal Title I funds, and student demographics. The equity grant pool grew from $845,000 in 2012 to over $1 million in 2014.
They did a comparison of the two districts:
Over the three years studied, parent fundraising looked similar in both districts. Portland’s PTAs raised less each year than Seattle’s PTAs, but those differences are consistent with differences in average earnings within each city. During the same time period, Portland’s PTA revenues increased from approximately $130 to $140 per student, remaining around 0.18 percent of median household income for families with children. In 2014, parents raised over $3.2 million in total. Between 2012 and 2014, the revenues of Seattle’s PTAs increased from approximately $340 to $370 per student, remaining relatively steady at around 0.35 percent of median household income for families with children. Seattle’s PTAs outraised Portland’s PTAs yearly revenues by 2014, earning $7.3 million in revenues.
When comparing contributions to overall family income, parents in the Portland Public School District donated less to their schools. While there may be other factors at play, such as the strength of PTAs’ fundraising teams or a difference in the community’s culture around donations, this may show that Portland’s equity fund has depressed revenues slightly relative to where they would be in the absence of the policy. Relative to the amount that the Portland and Seattle school districts spend per student—approximately $11,000 and $12,000, respectively—the difference between the districts’ PTA contributions is quite small, less than 2 percent of per-student district expenditures in 2014. This minimal difference shows the equity policy does not drastically reduce contributions.
As I have previously reported, there is a struggle in California over this issue, both in Northern California (San Francisco) and Southern California (Malibu).  
Since the pre-recession year 2007, elementary school PTAs in San Francisco collectively managed to more than quadruple their spending on schools.
But school district finance data, PTA tax records and demographic profiles reveal an unintended byproduct of parents’ heroic efforts: The growing reliance on private dollars has widened inequities between the impoverished majority and the small number of schools where affluent parents cluster.
School district data show that in 2011 (the most recent year tax records were available), parents of children at just 10 elementary schools raised $2.77 million — more money than those at the other 61 combined.
 Some answers:
In an effort to address unequal parent fundraising head-on, some Bay Area school districts have pioneered novel solutions that might be instructive to San Francisco. One is aggregating private dollars, and directing them to the schools that need the most help. Other California districts prohibit PTAs from paying for teacher salaries or training, a common practice that can significantly widen inequities among schools.
In Malibu:
The Santa Monica-Malibu school district embraced both solutions in 2011, under Superintendent Sandra Lyon. Today the district’s education foundation is the only way parents can donate money to support teachers and staff.
However, it appears Malibu would like to be its own separate district since this policy has taken affect.
The key worry about such systems is that they will reduce the incentive for parents to support public schools beyond what they already pay in taxes.
Lyon has seen a culture change in a district heavily divided by social class. “Schools are collaborating in ways they had not done before,” she said. “The inequity in schools had bothered many for years, and so there has been support for the notion that we are working to create a better education for all students.”
So what other outcomes might come from this?
Many educators fear losing support from affluent parents, who have the option to quit the public schools altogether and enroll their children in private schools — or flee to suburban schools.
Lyon said her district struggled with the transition: “There are still some who believe parent money should stay at their children’s schools, and they are strongly against the change.” 
Another article, this one from San Francisco Public Press about Albany Unified School District, is called Albany School District Levels Parent Fundraising Playing Field.  It's a good case study.
Superintendent Marla Stephenson said the disparities had been immediately apparent when she began working for the district in 2008. Three years later she led the switch to a single annual campaign for all three schools — one that could provide an example for San Francisco and other districts struggling with inequities made worse by parent fundraising.

In the fall of 2010, Stephenson agitated many parents when she tried cutting back on some school-day programs, given the disparity among campuses. Parents and teachers attended standing-room-only school board meetings to advocate for their schools. Those at the two wealthier campuses were upset that their children would not get programs that were already planned and financed. And those at the school with fewer resources tried to provide insight into why the disparity existed and needed to be addressed.

After the meetings, Stephenson convened a task force of parents, teachers, administrators and principals. The group met for more than 20 hours over eight sessions to find a solution agreeable to everyone.

The task force agreed on a joint $75,000 annual giving campaign, which included seed funding from the district, individual PTAs and a citywide community fundraising group called SchoolCARE. Other donations came from individuals. The money was split equally on a per capita basis among the elementary schools.
The PTAs are still able to fundraise on their own, for projects such as site improvements, assemblies and teacher support. But school-day programming — art classes, field trips, chess clubs or sex education — is off limits for private funds.
“It’s led to more collaborative projects between the PTAs, and I think people just have a good feeling about making contributions that are split evenly among kids, which benefits the entire community,” Trutane said.
A professor at Stanford, Rob Reich, is the co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, and he wrote an op-ed in the NY Times in 2013 on this topic.
The problem is not with America’s parents but with its policies. At a time of rising inequality, school foundations must shrink — not widen — the gap between rich and poor.

Should wealthy parents in well-to-do school districts stop giving to their own children’s schools? That’s not likely to happen, nor is it my recommendation. True, it would be more altruistic to donate to the schools of poorer children, but it is human instinct for parents to support the education of their children.

There is still a lot we can do to improve this upside-down system of charity. First, wealthy school foundations like Hillsborough’s should honor the equality-promoting standards released by the National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education (on which I served). At a minimum, this would require private giving to be aggregated across schools and shared equally with the entire school district. More ambitiously, it would channel private giving to support poor districts.

Congress should differentiate or eliminate charitable status for local education foundations. If a foundation raises money for a district with a high percentage of children eligible for free lunch, it could offer a double deduction; for a district below the average in per-pupil spending, the standard deduction; for a district with few poor children and higher than average per-pupil spending, no deduction. If private giving to public schools exacerbates inequalities, then at the very least we should stop subsidizing such behavior with tax dollars.
Food for thought.  It might be worth considering contacting your PTA or the SCPTSA at the start of the school year and ask what might change.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

"White Parents Must Act to Change Seattle Public Schools’ Opportunity Gap"

WOW... so black parents have no responsibility in the situation?

WOW... only whites can save the day!

WOW... SPS only fails black students!

WOW... money solves all problems.

Isn't she married to Thurston Howell, III ?

Biting

Anonymous said...

I never hear of this equalizing PTA spending idea also targeting parents in private schools. How about another campaign asking private school families to give to FRL public school PTAs? Why do we limit the target to parents of north end public schools? I agree with the equalizing idea, but why let private school families off the hook?
- Let'sBroadenThis

NNE Mom said...

There is a big problem in Seattle. All citizens (residents?) should be supporting the cost of public education, a public good, and yet with our chronic state underfunding the burden has fallen mostly on parents. This is already inequitable. The years when you have young children are the exact years when your ability to work and earn money is limited. Having young children is outrageously expensive. It is wrong that our society asks parents of young children to fund their own maternity leaves, pay for childcare (average cost $11,348 per year!), pre-k costs (more than college in Washington), pay for before/after care to make having a job feasible once the kid(s) is in school. There is a reason families with young children are disproportionately absent from the city. Education is a public good. And our state is failing. Our city is failing. And families' abilities to compensate from this is very inequitable.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Let'sBroadenThis, c'mon, we're talking public schools.

NNE Mom, there is free Seattle pre-k.

Kids are expensive said...

Seattle pre-k is not free. It's on a sliding scale depending on your income. Last time I checked it was about $1k/month for me, which is about what a regular preK program can cost.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sorry, yes, it has a sliding scale.

Anonymous said...

It is true that PTAs promote fundraising and volunteering in schools, but that leaves out a third important reason PTAs were created, which is to inform and organize parents and teachers for political advocacy, for example to urge legislators to fund schools.

About fundraising: Several years ago I encountered a parent who wanted the PTA at her elementary school to provide her with resources to conduct a fundraiser for the third-grade class on the east side of the hall. She was not interested in supporting other grades, or the third-grade class on the west side of the hall. The PTA refused to help her, acknowledging her right to donate money to her teacher, and to encourage her friends to do so, but insisting that if the PTA participated in fundraising it must benefit the whole community.

So I think a lot of how we think about this whole issue depends on who we think of as our community - who is "us" and who is "them". When we think about the problems facing "us", we make more progress for the whole community than when we think about the problems facing "them". But that parent sure was frustrated when she thought of how much all that money could have done for her child's third grade class.

Irene

Anonymous said...

Let'sBroadenThis has a point.
Pooling PTA resources effectively becomes another tax, a voluntary tax, but a tax nonetheless, which if you hit the right income bracket is deductible. So why not tax everyone with a child in school who contributes to their PTA?
Yes, we're discussing public schools but don't forget when private schools really took off in Seattle: when parents were dissatisfied with public schools.
No, the answer should be to adequately fund all schools, with tax dollars collected from all the population in an equitable form.
I personally am tired of writing checks for the PTA, buying wrapping paper and looking for pennies around the house, aren't you too?
-Clueless

alicia said...

I do not think the point of this article was that black parents have no responsibility or white parents could "save the day". The point was captured well by Irene. We tend to take care of our own school (or our own children) and think nothing about the consequences for students in schools without wealthy PTA's. The authors ask us to think about the well-being of all children in our district rather than just our own children. They also ask us to consider if we are harming other children when we give our children extras that those kids do not have. Good questions.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, private school parents do pay taxes that go to public schools and not private schools. I would say they are already paying. Now should they pay because many of them leave public schools to escape many issues like opp gap and low-income students? There's a good question.

Anonymous said...

My kids have been at several schools with lots of PTA fundraising support. I think people overestimate the impact of PTA funds. They add flexibility and an extra half an hour of art a week or instrumental music programs, but none of those things comes close to touching the achievement gap. We need an income tax and a capital gains tax. We need massive public investment in childhood that far exceeds what even the public schools can offer. PTA funds are nothing compared to all the time and resources parents with means pour into their kids outside of school. Sharing PTA funds is an easier fix, and those funds would definitely make life better for students and teachers, but it's not a solution. I'm all for sharing, btw, this isn't an argument against it, we just need so much more!!! Let's not fight over crumbs...

L&E mom

Cap hill said...

action>words...

As an interim step, let me propose the following. We need someone (or ideally a couple of people) to step forward and put a cross-funding structure in place for the upcoming school year. The notion looks like this:

- Create groups of donor schools (e.g. Garfield) and recipient schools (e.g. Beach) in 2-3 geographic clusters across the city
- Work with the PTSA leadership of the donor schools to get them to commit to putting aside 20% of their PTSA budgets for the 2018-2019 school year (likely 2017-2018 may be 100% committed and voted on by members) for a pool for the recipient schools
- Establish a board/non-profit status (half representatives from each group of schools) to create a process for selecting grants, as well as make sure the $ are disbursed and used as intended (and create a summary of donations/impact)
- Rinse, repeat and expand - and enable the board to start soliciting and taking independent donations

While this doesn't address everything that everyone wants, the advantage is that it can be done quickly and independently of any SPS policy or other actions. 20% of the wealthier school budgets in District 5 is probably on the order of $200K - while that won't solve all problems, it does help the PTSA in other schools plug holes and address student emergencies (example: test fees, school supplies).

I would do this myself but I am a little busy.

Anonymous said...

What is the district currently doing to encourage corporate and private donations, outside of the work done by PTAs?

wondering

Anonymous said...

Melissa's right. Private school families are already contributing toward public education via their taxes. I'll add that those taxes are probably higher, on average, than those of public school families, too.

Families also go private for a variety of reasons, a big one being that public education was failing their children. These families have to "double pay" (I wish it was only double!) for education--once for the public system they aren't personally using, and again (many times over) for the private system into which they were for forced.

If the public ed system is working ok for your family, you should count your lucky stars. You're getting a pretty sweet deal--even if you have to pony up for school supplies and some enrichment programs. Those of us who tried hard but could not make the public system work are the ones getting screwed here, folks. @Let'sBroadenThis, maybe you'd like to help us pay for the private school that has saved my child's mental health (and possibly life)? Like you suggested, we should all be "on the hook" for paying to educate our community's children...

PrivateByNecessity

Anonymous said...

It fascinating to me how easily people make the "problem" that "other people" are "generous" in the wrong way and how happy they are to explain the "right way" to be with "someone else's" generosity.

I'm grateful for all the people who volunteer and give their resources.

- enough blame.

Anonymous said...

@ Cap Hill,

Or what about well-off schools identifying "sister schools" within the district? If you know which school you're partnering with, maybe people will be more likely to donate. Not just cash donations, but it could also extend to supplies, volunteer programs, teacher collaboration, joint field trips, pen pals, etc. Maybe get a little competitive spirit, seeing which rich schools can outdo the others in terms of supporting their sister school's students, families, teachers, facilities, test scores, etc.

That sort of arrangement wouldn't require creating a whole new entity to oversee distribution, and it would help people feel more connected to the benefits of their contributions. It could also potentially help people better understand people and schools that are different than themselves and their own...

yo sis!

Outsider said...

I found this part especially interesting:

"the way our educational system values white middle-class knowledge, behavior and priorities"

That allegedly drives the opportunity gap, which means I guess we need to stop valuing "white middle-class knowledge, behavior and priorities." Tons of questions here:

1) Exactly what behaviors do they mean? Middle class behaviors were always thought to be stuff like working hard in school, respecting the teachers, respecting the mission of the school, following the rules etc. What behaviors are supposed to replace those? Maybe that is not what they mean, but the authors don't seem to think we deserve a better explanation. If the gap will be closed by devaluing those behaviors, it might reveal a lot about how the gap will be closed.

2) Exactly how "white" are these behaviors? Of course, attaching the term "white" is typical when you want to denigrate something, but could it be that many of these behaviors are shared by middle class people of other races? Or even poor and working class people of some races? Do Asians, for example, have middle class behaviors untainted by whiteness which are OK to value in public schools, and if so, what are they?

3) Has anyone but me noticed what a dramatic departure this is from old-fashioned liberal thought? Long ago there was a notion that middle class behaviors had a causal relationship to being middle class. (You could trace it back centuries, but more recently the idea was associated with the likes of dead white dude D.P. Moynihan.) Liberal do-gooders used to think you could raise people from poverty by persuading them to adopt middle class behaviors and acquire middle class knowledge. The death of that idea is worth noting.

4) Is it really fair or sustainable to tell white middle class people (or perhaps all middle class people) that their knowledge and behavior will no longer be valued in our allegedly diverse public schools?

P.S. I don't think the unbearable sacrifice the authors cryptically refer to is giving up PTA money. That's far from unbearable. They must have much worse in mind, or else they are given to hyperbole.

Cap hill said...

@ yo sis - you are absolutely right. And you nail one of the dynamics - which is that the more people feel connected and engaged to the contributions they are making, the more likely they are to make them. These donations don't just magically appear - at each one of these schools, there is a team of PTSA people creating events, mailings (and generally being pushy) and other things to get people to open their wallets.

Either way, action is still what it is about!

Anonymous said...

It's important to note that there are free and reduced lunch kids at all schools. My school raises a large amount of money per year, and we use that money to fund a reading specialist, and a math specialist. If you look at the roster of kids those teachers support, you will find it is largely our ELL student and Free and Reduced lunch students. It's the norm in my school for students to be 2/3 years ahead, leaving struggling learners with few opportunities to have their needs met in the whole group setting. If you take away the PTA's ability to pay for interventionists, you will be hurting the very students you're trying to protect.
TS

Melissa Westbrook said...

Outsider, I agree - by not defining "the unbearable sacrifice" - the authors leave the reader dangling in confusion. What exactly is that? I assumed it meant sharing fundraising dollars with other schools but maybe not. I would also gently posit the question - is this just money or volunteer time as well?

Anonymous said...

Our district’s track record shows if we white parents were to collectively urge SPS to address race and equity on a sustained basis, we would be very likely to see results. If we’re brutally honest with ourselves, many of us hesitate to act out of fear that speaking out against inequity will require us to make what feel like unbearable sacrifices.

Re: unbearable sacrifices, I read that as much more--not PTSA-related sacrifices of money and volunteers, but rather huge sacrifices in the quality of services for most kids. For SPS to effectively address race and equity on a sustained basis--enough for us to see real results--it seems like it will require many more resources. That's because the inequities in SPS have their root in inequities in society at large, and the academic disparities are already present at the time students begin school. To really address them, we need extensive and intensive supports for struggling students and their families, including expensive wraparound services. Since we don't have a lot of extra money lying around (ha!), the only way to really address these inequities is to shift significant funding from those who are doing ok and use that to help fund additional funding for those who aren't. Kind of the Robin Hood thing. That might mean much larger class sizes for your average kid, cuts to anything not seen as "core", a lessening of rigor (e.g. ,instead of "teaching to the middle" more "teaching to the bottom"), etc. Those would be painful changes, and I can't imagine many parents would go for it.

Maybe that's not what the authors meant, but that's how I read it...

unclear

Richard said...

Regarding the "free" pre-K misunderstanding: not only is it not free, it's not available to most people yet. There is very, very limited space. The state recently adopted paid leave rules, so that should improve for most people. But not all! It's very challenging to afford child-rearing while living in Seattle, even on an otherwise-respectable middle class income, let alone on a low income.

I think it would be very interesting to have the school district collect data on the annual donations to the PTA per capita and publish that along with the opt-out data that Alec Cooper has called for in his campaign. We have attended two elementary schools, one with an $800 PTA per-student ask (!!!) and one with a $200 PTA per-student ask. Those funding levels are tangible in what those two schools offer. One has a complete and splendid arts curriculum with certificated art teacher and visiting artists and art groups of all kinds; the other has a multiarts thing run by "docents" (ie, parent volunteers). Our oldest child attended kindergarten when the district still charged families $200 a month for full-day kindergarten. I kind of feel like the state owes us a reimbursement for that, as it was unconstitutional...

Anonymous said...

Prop. 1 will fund in-class programming and free field trips to museums, science institutions, and cultural centers with a funding priority placed on schools with the highest percentage of students on free and reduced-price lunch. Prop. 1 will also fund free family member programs at regional arts, science and heritage institutions for families that rely on SNAP, TANF, Orca Lift and other programs, so every family can afford to provide their kids with these invaluable educational opportunities. Finally, Prop. 1 will provide stable funding for more than 300 small community-based arts, science and heritage organizations throughout the entire county, with additional funding set aside to increase grants for organizations that primarily serve in communities of color.

So...do you want me to vote for Prop 1, or support sharing PTA donations? I don't see a need for both because I know Prop 1 won't go to my northend school.

What Gives

Megan Hazen said...

I am curious about the sister-school arrangement. It feels nice and cozy, but it does set up a dynamic of 'giver' and 'receiver' that I am a little uncomfortable with. It may feel good to be the donor sister, but how would the recipient sister feel about it? I also wonder about what happens to schools which don't have PTAs?

In addition, I recently learned that our PTA has by-laws that say that any funds raised will be spent on the current cohort of students at the school the PTA serves. This would mean that our PTA can't simply divide our funds-raised in half and donate half to another school.

This makes me think that ideally we set up a fund that is district wide, but independent of any school's PTA. It could go through the SCPTSA, I suppose. Grants could be funded with this mechanism in a way that responded to schools' requests and needs at a given time. I am not the first to propose such a thing, but I'd think it bears consideration.

Anonymous said...

Of course private school families pay taxes that go to public schools. And public school families pay those same taxes in addition to PTA funds. Why is anyone letting private school families off the hook by using that excuse? Shouldn't they feel equally compelled to support those higher FRL schools? We all pay taxes. Why is this just a public school to public school issue?
Yes, some families go to private schools to better meet the needs of their special needs children, but that's far from the majority.Why not encourage them to feel a little more obligation to still contribute to the challenges, beyond the taxes that we all pay?
-Let'sBroadenThis

Anonymous said...

30% of the kids in Seattle have abandoned the public school system in favor of private schools perceived as providing a better education. Uncounted more have left for the suburbs. Do we really want to create more reasons for middle and upper class kids to leave Seattle schools?

If families can't find the educational opportunities they want in SPS, those with the means to do so will go somewhere else.

Common Sense

Anonymous said...

Not all people pay the same amount of tax nor do all familes have the same number of children in public school. There are thousands of familes struggling to pay for private school on top of all the taxes. The public schools dont work for everyone but you people only think poor minorities are negatively effected my poor schools and bad curricula.

Why marginalize special ed families they have suffered MORE than any other group in SPS.

Parent

Anonymous said...

@ Let'sBroadenThis, Go for it. Encourage away. I doubt you'll get far, but if it makes you feel better to think it's those greedy private school families who aren't doing their share, good luck soliciting those donations.

1. Private school families make donations to private school PTA-type organizations, too. Donations typically support the ability of low-income private school students to participate in the private school and its activities. They are not "getting off the hook" in terms of supporting lower income students in our community. Donation sizes are often larger in private, too.

2. It's likely that more public school families are "getting off the hook" in this way than are private school families. PTA fund drive participation rates were shockingly low in some of the SPS schools we were at. A lot of money was raised, but it came from a small percentage of families--and a lot of corporate matches. At our private school, on the other hand, participation rates are very high. The argument that public school families are paying this extra PTA "tax" that private school families don't pay is nonsense.

3. It's not only "special needs children" who sometimes find private a much better fit--there are other students who have a need for something different. There are all sorts of issues that can make someone who doesn't qualify as a SpEd student have a tough time in a traditional public school, and families often look for a good fit in private in those cases.

PrivateByNecessity

Jet City mom said...

When both Dr Nancy Robinson & teachers from our local elementary urged us to consider private schools for our oldest, I was shocked, but I listened.

Otherwise Im sure she would have fallen between the cracks in public school, because at the time the alternative school we favored was oversubscribed.

Also, the district did not consider someone with a 160+iq to qualify for enriched classes, if there was any areas below grade level.( she needed OT, but did not meet SPS cuttiff)
Fortunately, private school was able to provide both enrichment and support, and enough financial aid.

Anonymous said...

This year our school set up an item at the auction where you could pledge money to a sister school's library. It wasn't a huge amount but it was a start and a relatively uncontroversial way to introduce the idea to our pts of sharing funds with a different school.

-itsastart

Melissa Westbrook said...

Let's Broaden This, private school parents may care in some abstract form but are they going to contribute? Pretty unlikely but do give it a go and let us know.

Parent, I would gently say to not try to put a label on "who has suffered the most." You might get some pushback there.

Itsastart, that's a great idea.

Anonymous said...

@Alicia "They also ask us to consider if we are harming other children when we give our children extras that those kids do not have. "

I had to comment on this statement as it is false.

Many schools that raise more PTA funds ALSO receive ALOT less money from the district. Lower socio-income schools (some do not have strong PTA's) receive MORE money, as they should, to help with the achievement gap.

Schools with less F&R lunch kids (yet with working class/middle class kids) need to raise PTA funds to cover basics that the low income schools are funding thru district.

For example, our school paid for a .50 time counselor with PTA funds. The school although raised alot of PTA funds, was REALLY bare bones. No extra's as you are imagining. In fact they had much less than other low income schools.

-K



Anonymous said...

@Let's broaden this,

To cheer you up a little, when you enroll in a private school there is an expectation, sometimes even contractual, that you will contribute additional funds over and above tuition, and/or volunteer time. That's our version of your PTA contributions. In our daughter's private school, 40% of the kids are on partial or full financial aid. Many of those kids would qualify for FRL in public schools. This school accepts kids from 23 different elementary schools, and accepts kids who would benefit from the school without regard to ability to pay. Having come from public schools, I am in a position to assure you that the kids in this school get way smaller class size and considerable academic support when needed, as the class is very diverse racially, economically, and academically.

So we *are* contributing funds that help and we do care about low income kids and their access to good quality education. Also, we pay taxes for public schools but do not burden them with our children. All in all, I think we are pulling our weight.

asdf

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Many schools that raise more PTA funds ALSO receive ALOT less money from the district. Lower socio-income schools (some do not have strong PTA's) receive MORE money, as they should, to help with the achievement gap.

To this point, yes, that is true on paper. But the funding that schools with high F/RL students receive is restricted. So that is more money but cannot be used in the same ways that schools with big PTAs can.

However, it is also true that more and more, schools with big PTAs are funding basics, not extras.

MJ, I generally do not allow links to videos that I have not seen first. I'm not sure what your point is in posting it and I wish you had said more than to try to attack Director Geary. So I'm deleting it.

And yes, there is evidence that more money gets better results - go look at Mass. and Minnesota.

Give me a break. said...

Why exactly should I and the other parents of our school care about the kids in other schools. Yes, inequity among students exists, but will forcing me to care about someone else kids fix this problem.

Give me a break. said...

And I'm way past white guilt.