Washington State PTSA Tackles Paying for Teachers

The Washington State PTSA, at this weekend's convention, took up a resolution on local units paying for teachers/staff.   (Note; the resolution is about two-thirds of the way down the document.)  They are advocating for PTSAs to NOT pay for teachers/staff.
Basically, they state:
  • it's the state's duty to pay for basic education.  PTAs supporting staff make it that much easier for the state AND their district to not have to step up and do their duty.
  • they point out the risks including inequities between students, making the school/district look more stable than it may be,skew student data and place tremendous pressure on the parents to raise money every year
  • they advocate for PTSAs to fund education experiences and programs, not staff.
How did it turn out at the Convention?

In other convention news, Friday night’s general session went longer than expected as delegates debated the merits of a resolution and 19 proposed amendments to the WSPTA Uniform Bylaws.  Following a vigorous debate, the proposed resolution regarding PTAs paying for school staff was returned to the Resolutions Committee for further consideration.  

So it got kicked back to a committee?   Must have been a tough discussion.

I had occasion to talk with a SCPTSA Board member about this issue and told her that this blog always gets A LOT of discussion around this issue.

What is PTA for? 

Does your PTA control its funds (meaning, does the principal direct your funds in any way)? 

Do parents weigh in on what to use funds for?  

Does your PTA spend more of its money on "educational experiences and programs"?  

Is there disagreement within your PTA on this issue? 


dan dempsey said…
So why is the PTSA supporting the Washington adoption of the Common Core State Standards?

This is an unfunded mandate that will require local districts to spend $165 million over the next 5 years on the CCSSI, which will all be spent outside the classroom. That is equivalent to more than 330 teachers per year of spending on the next Foolish expensive experiment.

Who makes these decisions for the PTSA?

The PTSA wishes to criticize the state for inadequate spending on the classroom.... and yet the PTSA endorses this poor use of funds in economic troubled times.

PTSA please explain.
lendlees said…
This year our PTA sent out a budget survey to parents giving them a fictitious dollar amount and asked them to prioritize their spending over 9 items/categories. We also solicited input from the administration as well as reviewing what was historically spent.

We did come to a major policy conclusion that we, as a PTA, should be responsible for enriching our children's education--NOT funding staff positions, per se. We do pay for instrumental music instruction and drama, but we agreed to not pay for a counselor this year.

It was a hard choice, but also a practical one. If you only have a certain amount of funds, using half of it to pay for one position takes away valuable resources that can affect an entire school.

Our principal agreed with us and specifically stated that he didn't want to rely on PTA funds for his staffing needs.
Anonymous said…
It is not just about paying teachers, but all sort of projects the district should be responsible for. Our school's PTA pays for painting, rewiring, carpets, computers, ipads, books and other schools pay for portables to accomodate overcrowding.

More than a $100 million shelled out for Garfield overhaul and it is not done. Where's the outrage? If privately done, we could have built a very fancy Bellagio like the one in Las Vegas for that obscene price tag (and bring in some revenue in the process).

It would be better for the PTSA to focus on accountability of our tax dollars, but hey that would mean upsetting the political gravy train.

-Not impress.
Charlie Mas said…
I think it is inappropriate for a PTSA to spend any money on any basic education expense.

The Board needs to set a policy regarding grants (PTSA spending at a school is a non-competitive grant). The policy that they are now considering doesn't really speak to it.
PTA Parent said…
It may be inappropriate, but a) how do you trace what the funds actually pay for and b) how is "basic education" defined? Is a school nurse basic education? What about a counselor, supplemental textual materials, professional development and collaboration time, instructional aides to reduce class size ratios? What about SPED supplies, basketballs, a repaired playground?

Regarding tracing the money, it's possible to trace it, but it's not practical to segregate the PTA funds from the general school discretionary fund.
DemocracyMom said…
I feel really conflicted about this. On the one hand, I absolutely agree, the PTSA shouldn't be paying for teachers and staff. On the other hand, at our school, we pay for a reading tutor who helps the most struggling students. And I don't see the district paying for that tutor, regardless of what we do. Bad spot to be in.
Anonymous said…
The district should be paying for basic ed and that means: tutors, nurses, counselors, PE teachers, carpets, portables, copying papers, books, SPED supplies, Professional Development, etc. The district has the money if it would get rid of all those expensive consultants and middle managers, and extra principals in elementary schools (just think how many teachers/nurses/counselors that would bring in).

Keep a tight rein and have clear line item budget especially in BEX projects (we need a cap on spending there) and boy, can we save $$$. The money is there. We need better, more honest and transparent accounting of our district budget.

So SCPTSA should stop fundraising for this stuff. The leadership should put pressure on the district for accountability and not endorse Ed Reformers who want parents to write checks to cover basic ed.

If you were to add up the cost of MAP, its implementation, number of computers acquired for this, paid hours to train teachers, hire people to analyze the data, people hired to proctor the tests, the dollars would add up in the millions. I suspect the real cost of MAP would be more than what all the Seattle school PTSAs raised in 2 even 3 years. Just think what those dollars could have been spent on instead.

Not impressed
Eric B said…
I have strong feelings on this, since our PTA funds all or part of a couple of positions. We raise a lot of money and spend it on a variety of great programs, including office staff and instrumental music, plus some tutoring.

One thing that gets me a little bit is the financial equity angle. Based on 2010-11 numbers, my school has the third lowest elementary school per-student funding in the District, AFTER counting for ~$50K dropped in by the PTA. That also includes some Pay For K money from last year that somehow ended up in this year's dollars, so next year we will likely be at the bottom. The middle of the road in per student funding is something like $500-$1000 more per student, which would equate to 2-4 more FTE staff positions.

Some schools have discretionary money to fund their counselor. We have none. Without PTA money and funding, we would have nothing but the very basic WSS funding stream.

Before you all hit me for complaining, the reason we have so little discretionary money is that ours is a wealthy school. We have great volunteers who do a lot for all of our students, and our performance shows it.

And I do get that the WSS model and the state-level funding models are broken, and we're masking that by all ponying up to pay for staff. However, if we aren't there, what happens for the kids who are in the school right now?
Anonymous said…
Eric B.,

Exactly, why are we force to pony up for these shortfalls when we should not have the shortfalls in WSS to begin with? My kids' schools are also considered "wealthy" with lots of volunteers and donors.

However, after nearly a decade of hearing the same not enough funding mantra and looking at how the district budgets get manhandled, I have noticed even before the lean times, how more and more of the school budget is shouldered by the PTSA funding and on the backs of volunteer tutors every year.

Now, I have stopped buying the old we don't have adequate funding, so vote for another levy. I am not convinced we are getting what we paid for as taxpayers. We should work for leadership that speaks and acts on our kids' behalf to make sure our money is spend wisely on these kids. This blog have countless lists re: budgetary and educational priorities. So why can't our leaders take that and use it.

Not impressed
PTA Parent, why can't you segegrate the PTA funds? Note: PTA funds are NOT school funds.
Just saying said…
How do you define inequity?

The schools with the lowest per pupil funding lack Title 1 dollars, TIF dollars,dollars to reduce class size (low income schools) and Pay for K. Pay for K funds get shifted throughout the district.

Should schools with lowest per pupil funding be denied ability to help students from an inadequate WSS?

Totally understand the district is shifting responsibility onto schools.
Just saying said…
Research WSS model- It is part of Education.

Also, schools with lowest per pupil funding do not reap benefit of instructional coaches.
Anonymous said…
In order to fully understand the complexities of this discussion, it is helpful to understand how SPS schools are funded. If you haven't become familiar with the WSS, read the doc entitled WSS Model and see the School Reports for per-pupil funding at SPS elementaries, for example. We spend far greater resources on schools with high FRL populations, and many woudl agreethat tax dollars should be weighted more heavily toward needier populations. For example, the per-pupil amountat Bailey Gatzert is over $8,000 per child, while the per-pupil amountat Loyal Heights is just over %$5,000 per child. That's a big difference, and any PTA add-ins are a DROP IN THE BUCKET. Kids need services NOW, and no amount of politicking on a state level is going to change the fact that kids at school A many need reading intervention and not be funded for it. Parents should be as free as outside orgs to step in and help. Outside orgs ste in in many ways across the district; don't tie the hands of parents, especially when one school may receive 25% less funding per child. And by the way, that doesn't even count centrally funded services, which, for good reason, higher poverty schools receive more of. My guess is that if centrally funded (coaches, fam spport workers, fam and ed levy workers, etc.) are factored in, some schools receive easily 50% more than other schools. I'm happy to have more tax dollars going to needier schools, but don't pen me in from helping in whatever ways are needed at my own low-funded school. And if you think that meagre PTA funding, certainly not thousands per child, is going to prevent the state from funding basic ed, think again. The state is so broke now it can't fund a peanut butter sandwich. These high-faluting basic ed arguments lack one thing: reality. No matter what PTA does or doesn't so, the state WILL NOT have or give the appropriate amount of funding.

Sign me,

wsnorth said…
I agree with pragmatist.

... example, the per-pupil amountat Bailey Gatzert is over $8,000 per child, while the per-pupil amountat Loyal Heights is just over %$5,000 per child....

Same at our local elementary. $5,000 doesn't cut it, so the PTA does what it can.
Just saying... said…
Nicely said pragmatist.

Then, in addition to per pupil funding throw in Pay for K, TIF, Title 1 Funding, state dollars for small class size in K-5.
PTA Parent said…
It is difficult to segregate the funds once the PTA grant is made to the school. At that point it does become the school's money and the money is fungible, just like any mixed account. It's not impossible to track each dollar back to its source if the funds are segregated, and those fancy spreadsheets sure look like it's tracked. But just like a family with a shared account, can you truly track individual dollars?
Maureen said…
Here's the link to the Budget Documents pragmatist referenced.
Chris S. said…
While I agree with pragmatist, the other side of the coin, to quote Michael DeBell, is "What if all those dollars went into a lobbying campaign?" That just might change the way the state funds stuff.

I agree that there isn't any money now (tax-exemption initiative, anyone?) but we should keep that in mind when the economy recovers a bit. I can't remember who told me this, but I think he/or she was quoting a state legislator - "after budget cuts, the first things to come back are benefits for seniors. Education is nearer to the last." Not to ignite a generational discussion again, but we parents could really be a powerful voting force if only we didn't have to give so much time and energy to our families - and money to our schools.

I'm a guilty as anyone. Considering a pledge to myself to match my school time/dollars with ed. activism at state level...
Anonymous said…
Funding for schools (based on $ per pupil) have never been equal in the last 10 years we've been in the system. More $ went to schools with higher FRL and title I, etc. even in good economic times (as it should).

I need a better reason to keep writing checks (especially since we are down to 1 income right now). The statehouse is broke is not a good enough reason. Where is the district demonstrating this poorhouse attitude besides the WSS--where it affects kids the most and scare the beejeezus out of parents. Where has the district made substantial cut in central office budget as other districts have done? I would like to see some fiscal prudence and discipline downtown first. IF downtown is willing to make some shared sacrifice-- furlough, pay cuts, reduce consultant hire, reduce OT, halt expensive projects, and send some of the $ back to classrooms, then my checkbook will open up again.

Not impressed
Steve said…
Maureen, thanks for posting the link to the WSS documents. Now, can someone explain what I'm looking at? Is the per-student allocation the amount the district is budgeting for all services to student (teachers, admin, etc.)? Is this on a 12-month basis, or school year? And if this is correct, what is the reason for the large disparities?

As an example using two schools fairly near to each other, BF Day has a per-student allocation of $16,781 for 2011-2012, while West Woodland has an allocation of $25,769. Another close school (John Stanford) has an allocation of $24,966.
Anonymous said…

Look at BF Day and W. Woodlawn enrollment, scroll down and also check for Sped Ed, Bilingual, etc., all of this determine total budget for that school. W. Woodlawn also has a larger enrollment than BF Day.

To understand WSS, it may be helpful, if your school has a BLT, to talk to a BLT parent (or friendly teacher rep) and they can help explain WSS. WSS has been around for a while, thought only in 2007, was it applied to elementary schools. One change to WSS this past year has been over the lost of counselors as part of WSS. It has been reinstated in some schools as part of discretionary fund. This blog had a whole section about that earlier this year. The other thing as with all things budget, rules get change annually.

Not impressed
Anonymous said…
"What if all those dollars went into a lobbying campaign?" That just might change the way the state funds stuff.

Forget lobbying.... June 28, 2011 the WA Supreme Court hears the state's appeal of McCleary v. State.


The Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS)
A hearing on the State's appeal of the NEWS trial verdict has been scheduled before the Washington State Supreme Court on June 28.

The seven-week trial in the NEWS court case concluded on Oct. 21, 2009, in King County Superior Court. On Feb. 4, 2010, Judge John Erlick ruled the State in violation of its constitutionally mandated “paramount duty” to amply provide for the education of all children. The court ordered the State to determine the actual costs of providing all children with the knowledge and skills set forth in the State’s high academic standards and to fully fund that actual cost with stable and dependable State sources.

The State of Washington appealed the ruling, and a hearing on that appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court will be heard on June 28, 2011.

-- Dan Dempsey

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