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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

PTAs and SPS

Reporter Brian Rosenthal from the Times is looking for input:

In these days of lean budgets, parents are funneling millions into Seattle schools each year through Parent Teacher Student Associations. That money is paying for everything from computers to music instructors. And of course, the parents in higher-income areas often contribute significantly more money than those in poorer neighborhoods. Many parents also donate their time and elbow grease to ensure their children have a good environment for learning.

We're planning a story about these parental efforts, and we'd like to hear your stories. Have you been involved in these funding drives? What kinds of things does your PTSA pay for? What would you like to see done differently? Is this the right approach to paying for public education?

Your comments may be used in upcoming stories and it's possible a reporter will try to reach you at the e-mail you registered with. You can also e-mail reporter Brian Rosenthal about this topic.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

The funding that higher income school populations receive from parents is an way overdue story about funding inequity in SPS. Money always comes with strings attached, too.

Even though parents want to do everything possible for their children, it creates a very real unfair system. I was told several years ago that Portland's PTAs decided to put the money in a pot and distribute it equally. Seattle parents always retort that donations will go down if this is the case. Wow! That is a sad excuse for perpetuating blatant inequities.

For Brian Rosenthal to recognize this story so early in his tenure is further evidence of his journalistic talents.

--Dan Dempsey rocks!

Anonymous said...

It's like the Yankees versus the rest of the great unwashed masses. Revenue sharing!

insurgent

Anonymous said...

I think that another aspect of this issue that needs to be addressed, however, is the inequities that schools have based on size (i.e. if you're a smaller school then you have no art, no music, no nurse, no counselor, no tech, etc. without the PTA) Take McGilvra Elem, the poster child for PTA money, for example. Their PTA does raise a huge amount of money, but the vast majority of it goes to pay for teachers/programs that my kid's school has without any PTA money. McGilvra has zero choral music this year because there just isn't enough money to go around, but my kid's school has a great music program without any PTA money required. McGilvra also doesn't have the "historian in residence" or the theater experience or the extra recess that my kid's school (with a high FRL population) does.

McGilvra's demographics are changing as their FRL percentage rises and more neighborhood families move to private schools due to all the changes in the last few years. Their PTA model is unsustainable, in my opinion, even before the rest of the district asks for a percentage of their PTA funds. McGilvra does, however, have a great principal and a way above average faculty, which makes all the difference in the quality of their instruction.

SPS Mom of 2

Anonymous said...

Providing sufficient funding for education should not be the responsibility of the PTAs. It should be the responsibility of all taxpayers.

When taxpayers refuse to pay tax on soda, for example, and fight every other tax tooth and nail, schools don't have the money they need to do the job. So parents supplement in their kids' schools.

If you force parents to donate equal amounts to other schools, are you going to then force them to volunteer at those other schools? I volunteer 4 hours a week at my kids' school....are you going to cut me down to 2 hours and demand I put in equal time at another school that has few volunteers? Should I stop helping my kids with homework every other night and go tutor other kids?

I vote for every levy and supported the state income tax and voted against the repeal of the tax on pop, along with supporting every other ed friendly tax. Before I had kids, I did volunteer as a tutor.

The voters of this state aren't doing right by the kids of this state, and I try to make up for what the state fails to do at my kids' school. I can't afford to make up the shortfall at every school.

Let's put the blame where it belongs, and it's not on the PTAs, but on the voters and politicians.

man up and pay your taxes

Anonymous said...

And PTA's.....start sharing those experiences as other schools have demonstrated. Providing an afternoon from 'Book-it Theatre'?
Can you provide a second show for another school somewhere else that cannot pay the cost? It's a small but step that will influence your students immeasurably.

Two and a half years to go

Andrew said...

@man up and pay your taxes: What a silly name. I pay all the taxes that I am legally required to pay. Are you implying that everyone should voluntarily pay additional amounts to the gov't even though it is not required?

Anonymous said...

"McGilvra does, however, have a great principal and a way above average faculty, which makes all the difference in the quality of their instruction..."

It's odd, you know. If you look at McGilvra's academic indicators for other than nonFRL, nonELL (don't know that they have any there), nonSPED, nonCAUCASIAN, the academics are not better than anywhere else in the District. This is the same for other higher income school populations. It is easy to do well with a student population who comes in with all kinds of legs up.


Northend skeptic

Anonymous said...

Forcing middle class parents to pay for other school's PTA's will simply drive more of them to private schools. That's already a problem in Seattle. Do you really want to make it worse?

Turning our public schools into a monoculture of poor kids doesn't serve anyone well.

Signed: Against forced redistribution of donations

Anonymous said...

I've heard (but I don't know if this is true) that schools with higer #'s of free/reduced lunch kids receive more funding from the district than schools like Laurelhurst. So then schools like Laurelhurst that can fundraise large amounts do so in part to make up for the lesser amount of funding they receive from the District. I would love to know if this is true or not.

Jane

Funding Sources said...

Jane, It is true. Schools with higher percentage of FRL receive more funding through Title 1, LAP dollars and grants. I can think of about 2 schools that have received a million dollars in grant dollars. Higher income schools can receive about 50% less in per pupil funding. The hands of the PTA should not be tied.

seattle citizen said...

The state PTSA making lobbbying decisions based on inaccurate representation of its constituents certainly seems to need examining. The recent "vote" by the WPTSA to endorse charter schools comes to mind. Is this what parents and teachers want? Or did Stand For Children have its way with the WPTSA?

Anonymous said...

"Revenue Sharing" can also happen within a school. I have had kids at two different public schools, both of which had a mix of very affluent families and very poor families. The PTAs raise a lot of money, and the money goes to fund programs for all the kids in the school, rich and poor. In fact, some of the PTA programs are specifically targeted at the low-income kids. This "revenue sharing" works great when it happens within a school community, but it would be hard to make it work at a district level.

I agree education should be funded through tax dollars and not PTAs, but since the tax dollars aren't there, parents have to make the best of a bad situation.

Grateful for my PTA

Anonymous said...

Funding Sources, can you provide a list of these schools with 50% less funding? Also 50% less than which schools? Thanks.

from a PTA mom

Anonymous said...

If it is about "poor kids" getting more money per head then why not just open your doors and let them in? Get rid of NSAP. Then you won't have a monoculture. You wouldn't need a "millionaire dollar" grant school.

another PTA mom

Erin said...

I get so tired of the forced divide between the haves and have nots. Those "rich" schools get so much less from the district due to the fundraising. The district depends on the PTSA dollars at "rich" schools to keep the school going. And Grateful for My PTA is correct, the PTSA at my school funds field trip scholarships, a Giving Circle and Family Support fund, and an after school enrichment program that offers scholarships, no questions asked. My dyslexic child would receive nothing, nada, zilch to assist him in reading if it was up to the district. Last year our PTA funded a reading specialist, this year all assistance is provided by parents who volunteer, not to mention the books we buy for the school. So not only does the district expect our dollars, our dollars fund those "poor" kids that are stuck at the "rich" schools that the district conveniently forgets about.

This issue is not about those parents who have some extra money and give it the PTA. This issue is truly about educational funding in our city and state. I wish we would stand together as parents and educators instead of letting jealousy over who has more money divide us. If we don't, all of our children will end up as have nots when it comes to education.

*I am using rich and poor to illustrate the stratification that is happening, not because I actually believe the rich schools are truly rich or the poor schools are truly poor.

dan dempsey said...

Thoughts on the divide ....

I would like a particular divide and think it might be beneficial. It would be an SPS divide.

From My friend D.O. (but not the District Office)
----
School districts with schools serving kids from a range of home support levels, like Seattle, should have two distinct curriculum committees. One with teachers from schools serving the low home support neighborhoods and a second committee with teachers from the remaining schools. This prevents the needs of one group trumping the needs of the other. It also simplifies the nature of the problem each group seeks to solve by reducing both the total number and ranking of issues each group has to contend with and related controversy. There will inevitably be problems deciding which camp a given school should land in but that decision should primarily rest with each school's principal and teaching staff. A school in the middle of the home support range could end up choosing either of the two committee outcomes or perhaps some blend based on their specific needs. There is also no reason the two committees need to operate on the same adoption cycle / schedule.

{{Note: Still using the WA State Standards across the District as what needs to be learned at a minimum.}}

This practice has really been in place for some time whereby STEM schools, magnet schools, etc. get more flexibility in the materials and methods they use. Formalizing it at the district level for the non-specialty schools shouldn't be much of a stretch.

Seattle could start out by forming a math curriculum committee for the elementary schools serving the high needs neighborhoods. ..... It is important to restrict this committee to the schools in the high needs neighborhoods and not let it get overwhelmed by the large middle range group or we won't get a useful result. Hopefully they would use true evidence based decision-making.
-----

It is not more expensive to use instructional materials that work. I think perhaps too much is made of finances ... to cover for at least a decade of lousy materials and practices ... selected by the experts downtown. ... certainly additional services have a cost but look at the regular counterproductive Top-Down actions.

It is way past time to end the Despot's Rule.
The Board cannot continue to nod yes at the dictates of Central Admin. Making policy, enforcing policy, and conducting an effective process for adopting materials is NOT micro-managment.

============
How odd it is that the level that is judged passing on OSPI testing in math was being attained by less than half of 10th grade students in both the District and State ...... There is a huge problem and yet the district preferred to stay the course.

Funding Sources said...

from a PTA mom,

Per pupil funding can be found on each school report. Try comparing Bryant to W. Seattle Elementary, or Garfield to Rainier Beach. I'm not saying lower income schools shouldn't have additional resources, but PTAs should have the ability to make up for district short-falls.

http://district.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=218215

wsnorth said...

Great coverage, Brian. Great idea for an article.

Let's not make this too one sided, though. The district provides hundreds to a few thousand more $$ per student to "low income" schools than to "middle class" schools. In a lot of cases the PTA's are just making up (and not even at that) for this inequity.

I don't necessarily have a better solution, but let's be balanced in our discussion. District data shows $$/student. Check out Graham Hill vs. Schmitz Park, for example ($$ per student).

FedMomof2 said...

I hope that this story--an excellent topic, thank you Brian--will include specifics of how PTA money is used in the schools to provide services across the spectrum of FRL, non FRL, SPED, ELL, etc. and how PTAs are struggling to fill gaps that have popped up increasingly over that last few years as funding has been cut. To me that is the real story.

FedMomof2

Anonymous said...

Thanks Funding Sources.

W. Seattle has 85% FRL population. ELL 33%,, SPED 15% . Funding per pupil 2011-12 $8,300

FUNDING sources:
SPED 16%, ELL 11%, Grant and other 10%, Basic and Voc Ed 60%

Bryant:71% white, 3% ELL, 10% FRL, SPED 6% 2011-12 per pupil funding $5,224
Funding sources:
SPED 8%, ELL 1%, Grant and other 8%, Basic and voc Ed 83%

Looked at other schools like Wedgwood with higher SPED, gets 16% funding from SPED, no ELL, grant & other 6%, Basic and voc ed 78%.

So yes federal and state money follows school with higher FRL, SPED, ELL, and schools who can raised xtra from grant & other (PTA) funded money.

I guess if you have a problem with that, you would have a problem with the higher per pupil spending at those schools. Upon reflection and looking at the demographics of 20 odd schoools all over the district, I am actually good with the money distribution. It goes where it is needed. Our ES raised over 100K each year over the last 6 years during good times and bad, so while our family have tighten our family buget the last 3 years, I am ok with sharing a percentage to a district PTA pot. I kinda like that it comes from a pot and giving and receiving can be a bit more anonymous. More in tune with the spirit of giving. Remembering my mom, she used to lecture me as a kid about how giving and receiving speaks of our human spirit and character. How it is even more important to know not just what to give, but how to give it so you don't diminish the other person by doing so. But then again, she grew up during the depression and WW2 (yes I'm old!), so her views are probably out of sync with the media's "person of the week" glorification.

PTA mom

Anonymous said...

But if you break those numbers down to "grant and other" dollars per student, West Seattle = $831/student and Bryant = $417/student.

~pta should not have to pay for basic education

Brian M. Rosenthal said...

Thanks for your stories, everybody.

I do understand the way school-by-school funding works, and that will be a part of the article, which should run next week.

In the meantime, please consider sharing your thoughts and experiences on a comment board we set up for this article. We want to publish the stories we get on there in a sidebar to the article.

Here's the link: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/reader_feedback/public/display.php?thread=604497

Happy Holidays,
Brian M. Rosenthal
(206) 464-3195
brosenthal@seattletimes.com
http://www.twitter.com/brianmrosenthal

dan dempsey said...

Hey PTA Mom et al.,

OSPI is slated to have a report out mid-January on performance of the original 47 "persistently failing" schools that got SIG funding in year one 2010-2011 ... of the three year Grants. A progress report is on the way.

This should cover West Seattle and Hawthorne Elementary schools and Cleveland High as well as 44 other schools.