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Saturday, February 12, 2011

News Roundup - Part Two

PTA Wars from Time Magazine
This article even has quotes from parents at Salmon Bay K-8 (wonder how they found them). We here know the issues:

"You now see parent groups paying for a substantial part of the budget," says Julian Weissglass, an education professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "But what happens to schools in poorer areas, where parents can't afford to do this? It's very troubling."

But here's a great thing:

When the Bellingham, Wash., district cut a conservation program from its budget, the PTA at Carl Cozier — whose leaders say it could have funded the field trip for its own students — asked to spearhead a fundraising campaign so that every third-grader in the district's 14 elementary schools could attend. The district green-lighted the proposal, and PTAs throughout Bellingham joined forces to foot the $30,000 bill.

Those are parents committed to equity.

The dangers (again, we know this as well):

One danger, education experts warn, is that school districts will get hooked on outside funding. (And if parents are willing to pay for the librarian, it makes it harder for a school to use staff reductions to try to get rid of an underperforming math teacher. Who needs a scuffle with the union?) Another problem with parent fundraising: turnover.

This was weird because frankly I've never heard this before:

Plus, all those hours spent fundraising may limit parents' ability to assess teacher performance and fight for improved education, which was the original mission of the PTA.
I'll have to look this up because parents assessing teacher performance? When was that part of PTSA?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

With talks of budget gap and all the Spring PTA fundraising across many Seattle schools right now, this issue of fundraising parity has been on my mind. In Sunday Seattle Times, there was an article about saving the salmon program in 50 Seattle schools. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is proposing to save the program in Seattle by infusing $10K next year into it. (A big shoutout to SPU!) See:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014208882_salmon10m.html

Couldn't help but think it is program like this that SCPTSA can get behind and look at pooling resources to sponsor something that will benefit many schools including ones without a PTSA or the ability to fundraise. SPU looked at the cost and it comes to about $200 per school/year to keep the program running (including one in our school).

Salmon Lover

Unknown said...

When are Seattle parents going
to face the fact that they are
participating in inequity when
they donate 200K to their school
while the one down the road gets
none? It was easier to rational-
ize during the Weighted Student
Formula days. Maybe reading about
Bellingham and Portland parents
caring beyond their own will help
trigger the wake-up call in Seattle.

Maureen said...

Lori, I struggle with this issue as well. But as people have pointed out here before, it isn't as simple as it looks. Title 1 and now the SIG schools are eligible to receive quite a bit of support (Title money, extended days, City Corps volunteers...) that middle class schools can't access. This year our (30% FRL) school parent group paid SPS about $10,000 to buy Readers Workshop books and training for six classrooms. Those books and training were provided free to poor schools (I'm not sure if they had to be Title1) and the new schools. Readers Workshop is the defacto adopted curriculum in SPS for those grades, but SPS doesn't have any intention of paying for materials or even training for schools like ours any time soon. To buy the complete set of books we will have to come up with another $30,000 or so. Last year, we cut professional tutors for struggling learners from our budget to cover the books. It was a very difficult decision.

I do worry about inequity of resources, and it is probably true that it costs more to educate poorer kids, but I think it is the the schools that aren't well off but are not Title level (say between 35 and 55% FRL?) that are particularly hard hit. My school is very fortunate to have a significant number of families who are able to be generous with time and money. I worry about the schools that don't have parent or District support.

Salmon Lover, I agree that the SCPTSA should adopt this, and they should make sure they solicit contributions from schools that don't have PTSAs as well (lots of the Alts only have Site Councils).

JJ said...

Lori,

Emotionally your point makes sense. There should be equity between schools, right? But then look at how we are funded on an individual school basis. Check out the School Reports and look at page 2 for each school, per-pupil funding. You will see that under Weighted Staffing Standards we STILL direct way more $$ (often hundreds or thousands of dollars more per student) to schools with high FRL, for good reason: students need targeted intervention, and it costs $. And I want my tax dollars going to those kids and schools.

I also want the freedom to give $ to schools receiving lower district funding. All kids have needs, and our state completely underfunds our schools. If we are going to change the system to give all schools the same amount of $ per student then I agree that outside funding should never be permitted. But would THAT be fair? And all of our schools and kids are underfunded.

If Pay for K fee goes up for example there are many families that are not FRL that may struggle to afford. This issue will be broad, across all schools. This came up at SCPTSA's general meeting and people are thinking about how to help. I would not be surprised to hear of an all-district fund for aid with Pay for K. It will need volunteers just like your school's bake sale though so if you are reading this and care, please commit to volunteering for whatever org steps up here. Blogging alone is zero help to families needing Pay for K or other assistance (like schools with salmon programs).

I like the idea of SCPTSA or another school org working to support the salmon program; salmon lover, it will need bodies and drive, can you help? Anyone who can please contact SCPTSA (or another school-related nonprofit of your choice, like PTO) and volunteer toget this thing off the ground. Unless the org is Gates or Alliance it is all-volunteer and all these orgs need YOU.

Chris S. said...

In an email from Ramona Hattendorf I saw this morning, HB 1609 (basing RIFs on "teacher effectiveness" (aka MAP test scores at this point) is the PTAs NUMBER FOUR legislative priority. I sure hope the first three are better aligned with children's needs. This would suggest a large majority of PTA members support it. Do you? I don't - despite all the happy talk about evaluation, we are just getting started and I know it would boil down to MAP scores. Are you comfortable with that? You can find your legislator at legis.wa.gov.

Chris S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris S. said...

Regarding parent fundraising and equity, a quick eyeball of the spreadsheet Harium showed me Saturday, Title 1 + LAP + PTO is pretty even. Unfortunately, Title 1 is supposed to supply resources for student needs well beyond a balancing of PTO fundraising prowess.

A city-wide K assistance fund is a great idea. However, it makes us enablers of the state's funding model for education. As does our school-specific fundraising, which is perhaps an even better reason to be concerned about it. Anyway, I'd support such a fund as long as for every dollar you contribute you also send a message to a leader about how you're picking up their slack.

Dorothy Neville said...

"A city-wide K assistance fund is a great idea. However, it makes us enablers of the state's funding model for education."

Voting for levies to pay for 6th period in high school makes us enablers. Levy equalization makes us enablers when other locales refuse to become enablers for the state.

Right now, if we create a district wide Pay4K fund we aren't really enabling the state -- their formula for paying for half day K isn't changing, we are enabling the district to carry on without finding that 2 million dollars somewhere else. Why did Executive management only get cut 5%? Why do we accept the fact that they lied about the 85 job cuts, shrug our shoulders and move on to figuring out how we can shell out more of our own dough? You know, if WE cough up money to assist the Pay4K fund, we are directly supporting the district's budget priorities. And we are fixing their flaw in reasoning -- as Sherry said, they are banking on saving $2.1M by eliminating their Full Day K subsidy, but in reality because more families will opt out of all day K, the savings will be less and there will be chaos in the classrooms with a handful in each room leaving at noon.

A better response is to insist that the board insist to the staff that they become transparent and cut elsewhere first.

(I know it is hard to stop being enablers. These are our children. We enable the district when we teach our own kids math, when we pay for tutors, when we let the district claim that our kids' high achievement scores are all because of what they learned in school instead of partly or mostly what they learned at home.)

Chris S. said...

oops, it's LEG.WA.GOV

And thanks for the clarification Dorothy.

Anonymous said...

I thought this article was relevant to the discussion of equity. It has a bit to say about per student funding over the entire state. It made me a little sick to my stomach.

I will support pooling all outside funding when each student is funded adequately and equally (from the state and district) in the first place. You may see it as an inequity Lori, I see it as survival. I only have so much to give and yes, I want every penny of it to help my child's middle class underfunded school. Which does not benefit from Title 1 or from a super wealthy parent group.

-altmama

Anonymous said...

insert article. damn crappy browser...

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/welfare-state/Content?oid=6686284

-altmama