Sunday, April 09, 2017

PTAs and Sharing Dollars

The New York Times had a revealing article today about sharing PTA fundraising dollars. 
According to a new report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group, schools that serve just one-tenth of 1 percent of American students collect 10 percent of the estimated $425 million that PTAs raise nationwide each year.
Addressing inequities:
Leaders at several overachieving PTAs also said their generosity addressed another kind of inequality: Their schools did not benefit from Title I, the federal taxpayer-funded program for schools that serve large numbers of poor children.

But Catherine Brown, a co-author of the report, said that when richer PTAs paid for teachers and programs that poorer ones could not afford, students in less well-off schools fell even further behind.
The district written about in the Times is the tony/not-so-tony Malibu/Santa Monica district.
But there is poverty, too; of the 11 elementary schools in the 11,000-student district, four in Santa Monica, including Edison, qualify for Title I aid. Half of Edison’s students come from low-income families, and three-quarters are Hispanic.
Several years ago, the Santa Monica-Malibu school board came up with a solution: Pool most donations from across the district and distribute them equally to all the schools.

The funding program is considered a national model, and has many enthusiastic supporters. But for some locals it is a sore point that has helped fuel a long-simmering secession movement in which Malibu — more solidly affluent than Santa Monica — would create its own district, allowing it to keep all of its donations in its own schools.
What one school board member had to say - read it twice and tell us what you think:
An ideal PTA system gives a parent “the opportunity to put your money where your heart is,” said Mr. Foster, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse. “It has to be an emotional appeal, and it has to be for the benefit of the donor.”
How it works there:
Parents can still donate to their own schools to cover expenses like campus beautification, technology and field trips. But those who wish to help pay for teachers’ salaries or school-day science and arts programs must now donate to the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, which redistributes the money across schools.

Megan Histand, the PTA president at Franklin Elementary in Santa Monica, said that sharing parent donations across schools was “pragmatic,” since all the district’s students feed into two high schools, and that parents should want their children’s classmates to be academically and socially well prepared.
In 2011, they apparently had quite a loud school board meeting that included this topic.  Here's the PowerPoint that makes for interesting reading.

There also have a link to another area that we have discussed on this topic - Portland.  From The Oregonian:

The Good
All Hands Raised, formerly known as the Portland Schools Foundation, has reported steady increases in donations through the years from its local foundations, which number 44. By comparison, parents raised $2.67 million through foundations in 2009-10.

After schools raise $10,000, All Hands Raised collects one-third of each local foundation’s donations. That money is then allocated through "equity grants" to schools with more needs, many of which don't have their own foundations. A total $1.25 million is expected to be transferred to 47 schools as a result of last year's fundraising, at least $20,000 per school.  

Transparency about how the funding works has helped inspire more than double the amount of giving over recent years, Chapman said.
The Bad
While school board members praised the fundraisers' success, one member said the amount of money underscores how reliant schools have become on private fundraising.

About 118 positions, including 76 teachers, were funded by foundation donations this year. That money is separate from Booster Clubs and Parent-Teacher Organizations, which also hold many fundraisers.

Board co-chairman Greg Belisle thanked community members for all their efforts, but said he hoped the dollars could go toward more “enrichment” in the future rather than making up for losses in state funding.
My takeaway from reading the article and all the linked documents (except the study) is two-fold.

One, school districts really should not allow PTAs to fund positions except if they are after-school enrichment (like bringing in artists to teach). 

Two, state legislature need to fully fund education.  The kind of confusion and discord you see from shared PTA fundraising makes that abundantly clear and frankly, it's one more reason that state legislatures should feel some shame.

Parents should not be put in a position like this.


Jon said...

Spreading PTA funding isn't much of a solution. Far better is to fully fund education so that the funding is sufficient and so that there are not radical per student differences in funding based on school or location.

That'd require higher taxes, but higher taxes are much more of a solution than relying on individuals to do what is essentially voluntarily taxing themselves to pay for the education of children in their cities and states. Not enough people are ever going to do that for the funding to be sufficient and equitable.

3PTA Parent said...

The richest 1/3 of Seattle families are sending their kids to private school. The poorest 1/3 of Seattle families can't afford to contribute to PTAs. And having PTAs fund all the public schools (not just their own children's) thus means that the middle 1/3 of Seattle families has to pay for the PTA donations of the bottom 2/3 of earners. That's just crazy. Raising children is phenomenally expensive in this city. Families with young children flood out of the city. The education of our youth should be a society-wide obligation. Today's kids are the ones whose taxes will be propping this society up when we're all old. They're going to be running our show. We owe it to them now to educate them. And that means all of us, not just the middle 1/3 of parents of school age children. Childless 20-somethings and corporations and empty-nesters and the whole of Washington State should be supporting these kids.

Plus, if you look at people's incomes as they change over their lifetimes, the period when they are raising young children is NOT when they are earning the most. It makes way more sense to spread out this burden society-wide.

Anonymous said...

This is one of those stories where the fact that people don't understand how our society works becomes a problem.

If *all* parents are unable to get their needs met in the public schools under existing funding, those with money will find a way to use that money to get their kid's needs met. You cannot stop this from happening.

You could ban this kind of PTA funding or you could require the funds to be spread around the district according to need. Both steps are justifiable. Neither step is going to actually work.

Those parents can (and often do) bribe teachers. Or fundraise under the table. Or try to convert the school into a charter. Or take their kids to private school. And so on.

The only answer here is to change the system. Tax the rich to fund public schools. Fund them at a level where no PTA anywhere has any reason to do fundraising. Make sure every single child, rich or poor, black or white, advanced or remedial, has everything they need in a public school and then some. That's how you solve this.

Otherwise you're just creating artificial shortages that will lead parents with money to undermine the public system.

Delridge Dad

Anonymous said...

Really, this isn't all that hard. That is, assuming people want both equity and donations. Proportions are covered in 6th grade math. First, determine the percentage of extra funding necessary for title one schools, or whatever designation the district already uses. Let's say poor schools are getting twice what wealthy schools get to compensate for poverty. Then parents should donate as generously as they can or care to donate. Finally, the donation distribution should maintain the district's determined funding ratios. Poor schools would get twice the as many donation dollars as wealthy schools if that was the predetermined ratio. Donations would never be used to fill the gap as they are now where wealthy schools can make up for funding differentials. Parents who wanted to raise up public ed, would have to do that for every.

Everyday Math

Grant Funding said...

The Sattergerg and Nesholm Foundations help support low income schools.

I am pleased to inform you that a grant has been approved to the Seattle Public Schools for $700,000 for support ofthe Elementary Feeder School Literacy Initiative for the 2017 - 2018 school year.

Since 2002-03, the Nesholm Family Foundation has provided $6.1M in total to the District, averaging $475,000 per year, in support of the Kids in the Middle grant.