Monday, June 03, 2019

What To Do About PTA Fundraising and Equity in SPS

It's a big question in that headline (literally, as some schools are fundraising giants).  It's a touchy question - challenging parents' rights to raise huge amounts of money that benefit the children at their child's school.
To wit, last Wednesday's Board meeting which saw the introduction of a BAR about McGilvra Elementary and the district "accepting" a grant from them in the amount of $358,705 for next school year for "Tier 2 academic and social emotional intervention support."  It would fund 1.5 FTE Academic Intervention Specialist, .6 FTE Counselor and .5 FTE Office Assistant.  McGilvra is tiny at about 242 students.  It is overwhelmingly white and middle class.
This model started as hourly tutors, but has expanded to provide direct intervention services through certificated staff. The McGilvra PTA grant proposal is essential to the successful functioning of the school and success of the students. The math interventionist, counselor, and reading interventionist comprise the bulk of the school’s MTSS team and are integral to its success.
This absolutely goes to the heart of my argument.  The district says MTSS is the keystone to progress in the district for every single school.  And yet, at least for McGilvra, "the bulk" of that MTSS team is funded by the PTA.  If MTSS is so vital, why is the district not funding it?   The BAR says that the Race&Equity Toolkit was used and that these staff benefit students of color.  But McGilvra's demographics are not large for kids of color.

I absolutely applaud the effort from the McGilvra PTA but I can also see others' discomfort with this massive amount of money spend on staff.

After reading that, here are three points to consider about PTA fundraising:

1) One of the biggest overriding issues in PTA funding is the ability for some PTAs to provide staffing.  This seems to upset many parents.  I hear words like "outrageous",  "ridiculous", etc.

Just to remind readers as an example, the district has several dual language programs.  For dual-language to really work at the elementary level, you must have two instructors in every classroom.  In SPS that means a teacher and an IA.  The district does NOT fund those IAs.  The only reason McDonald and JSIS have them is because of the incredibly hard task each year that their PTAs take on in order to fund the IAs.  (The elementary dual-language programs in the south - with more low-income families - make use of the ELL IAs to fulfill this room.  Those IAs are funded thru Title One.)  So the district gets to continue to have this very desirable program without funding it in its entirety.

Pretty sweet for the district.  So are those McDonald and JSIS parents really terrible people for doing that fundraising or are they helping the district create a system of dual-language schools?  And, if the district said, "No more funding for staff from PTA/PTOs", what would happen to those programs?  

2) Another issue in PTA/PTO fundraising is the ability to provide materials to schools like printers, copy paper, carpet, playgrounds, etc.  When President Leslie Harris came on the Board, the issue of playground replacement really bothered her as schools with fundraising power were able to get this done much more quickly than those who did not.  Because of her concern, there is now a fund in Capital projects to make sure all schools get playground replacement in a fair and timely manner.

3) The third big issue in PTA/PTO fundraising is the issue of extras.  This is more apparent in elementary and middle schools as many high schools have booster clubs that are the source of dollars for areas like athletics and the arts.

It's extras like field trips, funding for arts like putting on plays, science fairs, a stipend for funds for each teacher to spend as he/she sees fit, etc.

What's interesting to me is that the discussion is getting bigger among parents but not really from the district or the Board.  The district is especially silent on the issue of fund-raising sharing which is somewhat hypocritical.

I do want to call this hypocrisy out because the district says equity is the foremost issue for the district.  Basically, the district has a public face of educational justice, seemingly decrying how some schools benefit from having fundraising power to buy staff, materials and experiences.  However, much, much more quietly, the Board and the district continue to accept the fundraising grants from these PTAs which, last I saw at an Operations Committee meeting, totaled about $8M.

I'll go out on a limb here but I believe if PTAs did less fundraising or entered into sharing agreements with schools who either don't have a PTA or don't have the ability to raise funds as others do, the district would be mighty unhappy.  

One big question I'll throw out first - how much is too much?  Because there is a spectrum in SPS of PTAs and how much money they raise.  I'd have to go and check but I'm sure there are at least 10 schools that have no PTA/PTO or tiny ones.  Most PTAs are medium-sized and I'd guess probably raise about $30-50K per year.  Some are large PTAs (and keep in mind, large means a large proportion of  parents belong and contribute - NOT that it's only large population schools.)

I think in this discussion about PTA fundraising, we might take out the high schools as most of their contributions are much more likely to come from foundations or booster clubs.  Naturally, that would be great to know how much all that is but that would take a huge effort to figure that out. 

As some readers have noted, the SCPTSA, at long last, has come out with a resolution about the issue.  They are asking for input on the resolution.  Here are some key passages (partial):

- They state that the fundraising done in school - from all sources, not just PTAs - has grown by nearly 350% between 1995 and 2010.  Then they state:
Given that a substantial ​body of research​ indicates that “parent involvement at home and school is an important factor in improving young children’s literacy and math skills” and that “PTA membership was also associated with student achievement in a 2006 ​School Community Journal study​ authored by researchers at the University of West Florida” the shift represents a major disservice to our communities.
I really don't follow this line of thought because, on the one hand, membership in the PTA was related to improving student outcomes, not the fundraising.  Meaning, membership in PTA doesn't necessarily equate to fundraising for the PTA.   It's still good for a school to have a healthy PTA without that PTA raising a lot of money.

They go onto say:
Moreover, in PTAs with fundraising programs of scale, the relationship between building administration and school community is no longer one of authentic engagement and collaboration but instead one of grant-making and seeking. As such, “If the principal knows that the PTA is not a source for fundraising, depending on the principal they might not go to the PTA and ask parents if [a particular project] is a priority.” When they do depend on family contributions, “parent engagement in gentrifying schools shows that schools tends to accommodate those [wealthy] parents’ interests and concerns3” rather than addressing needs equitably.
I totally agree with the first sentence.  Principals who lean on PTAs to backfill and keep programs going then take for granted those ongoing dollars.  That truly is not "authentic engagement and collaboration."

I'm not sure I agree that fundraising "gentrifies" schools.   As for whether needs are addressed equitably, that should fall to the principal to get right.  In my experience in PTA, the principal is the one who takes the lead on how the money gets spent.  PTAs generally go to the principal and ask, "What are the most pressing needs?"  Because keep in mind that the principal does control most of what happens in any given school, so it's much harder than you might think to just raise and distribute dollars without principal approval.  (See the McGilvra example - they aren't spending that money on arts but I'd bet many parents might like that.)

The resolution goes on:
In Seattle, this is increasingly difficult to manage ethically and is, in many cases, in violation of School District policy and union collective bargaining.
I would agree.  If the latter part of that sentence is true, we then again circle back to my point that the district talks the talk about equity and yet seems to be okay with violating policy and bargaining agreements.

Going on:
Meanwhile, as this dynamic grows, PTA involvement is viewed by families as primarilya fundraising program intended for the wealthier and therefore influential families, leaving most other parents feeling disenfranchised, driven out, or never engaged. Even those that do have means quickly burn out due to the intensity of the fundraising machine. The result is waning participation and membership in PTA locally, statewide, nationally4.
Again, I agree that many families are turned off by "being ATMs" for PTAs and that fundraising, rather than family engagement, seems to be a more primary function for PTA.   I'm not sure SCPTSA can point to this issue as the main reason for their huge drop in numbers and it might be good to survey parents and find out.   We know that several SPS PTAs went PTO because they did not support all the stands that PTA takes.  The resolution offers no data supporting fundraising as the main/sole reason for membership drops.

Their vision:
As Seattle Council PTSA, we envision a PTA that refocuses and rededicates itself to become that voice for children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education.
Refocus:The primary function of PTA is child advocacy. PTA is nota fundraising organization. The primary emphasis in PTA should be the promotion of the PTA mission, and activities and business of the PTA should serve to further the mission.
Build Community and Engagement:Units and councils must recognize that the time and energy of its members are limited and must be harnessed by meeting families where they are. Be a resource for families and staff, and bring them together equitably and representatively.
Balance in Fundraising:The real working capital of a PTA lies in its members, not in its treasury. Follow the 3:1 rule - at least three non-fundraising projects aimed at helping parents and children or advocacy to every one fundraising event. 
Then they get to the heart of the matter (color mine):

Mind the gap:​ We must address the ways in which PTAs work within school communities to engage in addressing funding gaps, and how they solve some issues and create others. PTAs should create their annual budgets with specific goals in mind and identify strategies for reaching those goals equitably before determining the dollar amount needed in a fundraising event. Only those funds necessary to meet PTA’s basic organizational needs, along with a nominal operational cushion, should be raised. PTAs should not exacerbate inequities in a school district by excessive fundraising. Our funds are not meant to​ ​replace funds not supplied by governments; our funds are for ​the needs and operation of our organization and mission, for supporting participation on committees, for projects and programs that engage families, and advocacy for kids.
There is a lot to unpack in that paragraph.  First, that's an interesting idea to only budget for very specific areas and only for "organizational needs."  Second, it's hard to tell parents NOT to mind the gap when they want to try to fill the gap left by district/state funding when it is apparent that the district/state is not fulfilling THEIR mission.
That may be the rub - a gap exists at the state/district level and parents want to fill it and yet doing so exacerbates the gap for schools that can't raise funds.  And, gives the state/district a cushion so they don't feel the urgency to close the gap for ALL.
Community Partnership:Assist and grow those CBOs working in our school communities and District so as not to duplicate efforts. Support theirfundraising efforts and partner with them. 
Also, interesting because what if there are no CBOs in a school community?  Or, if they are for-profit CBOs?   It certainly might be a good idea to sit down with the CBO in your building and work together collaboratively but what happens when there is disagreement on goals?  Does the principal decide?
ADVOCATE:Give members voice and provide resources for advocacy. Advocatefor increased funding through the state legislative process and for equitable application of funding in your school community. If local PTAs and PTOs continue to purchase items for schools that should be provided by our state legislature through the tax system (public funds), the legislature will never see the need to provide an equitable, sustainable source of funding for public schools, and funding gaps between schools and districts will continue.
This statement is one worth repeating, over and over, to parents because it's the same for the district.  Keep filling in the gaps in the district and they will continue to use funding as they please, rather than keep that laser focus on most of the dollars going into buildings. 
There is no list from either the PTA or the IRS of what PTAs can and cannot fund. So while PTA/PTSAs have autonomy to make such decisions for themselves (as approved by their members) they must be aware that nonprofit, tax-exempt status of the PTA might be affected by actions outside of PTA mission and vision.
I'm not sure what the latter part of that sentence is trying to say.  Is SCPTSA saying they know of PTAs violating the terms of what it means to be nonprofit?
The landscape in Seattle Public Schools warrants specific attention to the following topics and issues that arise while fundraising for contribution to Seattle Public Schools (which is again, not the central function of any PTA). Seattle Council PTSA provides the following guidance:
In this section, they say that if SPS' policies/procedures are "inconsistent" with PTA purpose or IRS reporting, then PTA "bylaws, mission and vision must take precedence."

  • Funds deposited into building “self-help” accounts, though allowed by SPS policy, are not traceable once deposited. This is not considered an appropriate use of funds if buildings and district accounting systems are unable to transparently demonstrate and acknowledge a) acceptance of such funds and b) confirmed use of such funds.
  • The Seattle Public School “Gold Book” provides principals with budgeting guidance and restrictions. These should not be waived for the purposes of receiving PTA funds unless a case can be made for equity, supported by the SPS Equity Tiers and Toolkit.
  • Individual PTAs should readily make budgets available to membership, council and Seattle Public School to ensure transparent and inclusive budgeting.
  I would be surprised if any PTA did not want to share their budgets with anyone; that's troubling. 
  • PTA funds should rarely, if ever be used to provide any salary for school staff or curriculum. While there will be times when critical exceptions to this occur, it should not be without specific consideration of the aforementioned commitment to mission and advocacy. 

    Fundraising of scale serves only as a distraction from the important work of advocacy and exacerbates critical inequities in our system that will only be remedied by collective pressure on our state legislature and school board to effectively raise revenue and deploy funds toward that end. We urge our current and future members to #TakeBackPTAand return to a commitment to community, family and advocacy. The inequity about PTA funding is not just in the ability for some parents to provide better educational opportunities for their child's school, the inequity is also that the district is not fully funding the curricula the district has chosen. 

    During the Science adoptions, the district criticized schools for using PTA dollars to better the science classes at their schools. And yet, at one school, Hamilton IMS, their PTA was asked to send the entire science department to a conference where most of their time was spent attending Amplify training seminars. Wasn't that wrong as well?

    The district reminds me of the policeman in Casablanca who, upon seeing a raid on a nightclub, says that he's "shocked" by seeing gambling going on, and then another guy comes up and says, "Your winnings, sir", hands him a wad of money and the cop says, "Why thank you."

    To note, at the high school level, there is a Science portion of their school budget embedded. It would be interesting to know how each high school decides what portion of the budget will go to Science. It was also stated by Mary Margaret Welch during the Board discussion at last Wednesday's meeting about the Science adoption that the Amplify kits have everything needed for the work and "all kinds of goodies."

    I'll throw this out to Science teachers - does the district normally give you everything you need for your lessons? My impression has always been that the answer to that would be no.

    But let's get back to the district. Director Eden Mack pointed out at the Board meeting that the State doesn't fund specific subjects, allowing districts to select their own curricula to meet state mandates and therefore, the districts must pay for curricula out the state dollars granted to them. It is hard to understand a district that would then pass on costs to teach that curricula to schools.

    So I can understand a school asking their PTA/PTO for help in funding basic teaching and learning.   Would it be okay to say only fundraise for basics and not extras?

    It's going to take some real honesty to talk about this issue AND to act on it.


Anonymous said...

SCPTSA would do well to focus on taking back the PTA - the *state* PTA. The Washington State PTA has been captured by Republican and corporate education reform interests for the better part of the last 10 years. Why doesn't WSPTA ever rally parents from across the state to go to Olympia and demand funding for public education? There's a reason for that. Chad Magendanz and his allies know exactly what it is.

There is troubling language in the resolution suggesting that if PTA stops paying for teachers or curriculum or services, somehow that will create the pressure in Olympia to finally and fully fund our schools. That is not going to happen and that is not how the legislature works. We already have plenty of examples of the state's failure to fully fund schools, lots of unmet needs in schools, and it hasn't done a thing to get the state to meet its constitutional obligations.

PTA fundraising is treated as the problem itself, when it is a symptom. You don't solve the underlying problem by solving the symptom. I think a lot of parents have concerns about the district relying on the PTA, but I don't see here a realistic strategy to get the unmet needs funded. All I see here is a recipe for higher class sizes, fewer nurses and counselors, and other big budget cuts. And that is exacerbated by the fact that a lot of SCPTSA leaders advocated for a costly science curriculum that will have to be paid for by cuts to teacher jobs and classroom services.

We need a solution to the PTA fundraising issue but I honestly don't see one here. This reads like a very self-righteous resolution that won't achieve a thing.

Doesn't Fundraise

Confused Messaging said...

Is it just me, or is the SCPTSA just super bad at communicating?

When they wanted us to vote for the levy, they spent 90% of their messaging talking about how they hate taxes and then spent the last 10% asking us to vote for the tax. ???

And now they want people to focus single-mindedly on PTA as a child advocacy organization, but they spent 100% of their time talking about fundraising. Not one word about advocacy. All $ $ $ $ $, all the time. ???

They are so confused and ineffectual.

All the while, East Seattle schools are rolling in dough.

Anonymous said...

Only state supplied funds should be allowed for the salaries of teachers it's the salaries of administrators that should come from levies and fund raisers. The city should manage the buildings not SPS.

Take that!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Confused Messenging, I think they did talk about getting back to advocacy but not in a specific manner.

One message I feel I'm hearing - from both the district and the SCPTSA - is almost "if everyone doesn't have this, no one should." That could be quite the change if implemented because, how far does that go?

1) Eliminate staffing. I'd have to go look up how many positions that would be but I'd say roughly 50 (counting part-time staffing). It would definitely change the dual-language programs because I would not see the district paying for all those IAs.

2) Maybe create a pool of money but for specific things like field trips. The district could have a rule like "Only one field trip per class per year unless every class in the district gets to go on one." I'm volunteering in a Title One school and I know the class I am in goes on one trip a year. I don't know if that's true for all Title One schools. I think many parents might think it fair to help allow other kids to go on field trips.

3) What happens if there is a struggle between school PTAs and SCPTSA if SCPTSA gets SPS to create policies around PTA spending?

It's a tough nut to crack but I would agree with Doesn't Fundraise that the fundraising is a symptom and is not the reason there are inequities among schools.

I note that years and years ago a wise principal told me that principals wear many hats. Some fit better than others, meaning, some principals have better skill sets for different work. He said that he had worked very hard to understand budgeting and what he could or couldn't do with the dollars and that not all principals have that skill set.

Anonymous said...

There's a reason schools have chosen PTOs over PTAs. We don't have to deal with state and local PTA politics. We can do our best for our own schools and yes for many of us that means thinking thoughtfully about equity. Great that the PTA is working on issues from its viewpoint but it doesn't speak for schools with PTOs and it certainly is not in a position to curtail how or how much or when or where or why we raise funds for our students. All I can say is that our students, those without means and those with means, would ALL be much worse off without our PTOs advocacy to the district, collaboration with our staff, volunteering for our classrooms and events, and our funding for our in-school and extracurricular needs. PTA can suggest, but push this too hard and prediction is schools will drop PTA in favor of PTOs sooner rather than later. Honestly, for the red tape and politics and $$$$$ involved in PTA not sure why more haven't already done so.

PTOs Rock

Same Here said...

The thinking that "if everyone doesn't have this, no one should" is not equity, it's equality. And equality is not equitable. If the district and the SCPTSA wants equality, then the WSS has to apply the same everywhere, everyone funded the same. Grants = the same for all students. PTA funding = the same for all students. Field trips = the same for all students. IAs and math intervenionists and curricula = the same for all students. So, what is it? Equality or equity?

If the SCPTSA wants equality, just say so. Then all the members who don't want that can leave and form independent PTOs instead. If the SCPTSA wants equity, they should *^&$% or get off the pot.

Anonymous said...

Uh, it's not just PTA that raises cash and volunteers time. High school foundations. Nonprofits. Business orgs. PTOs. The previous borg that was the Alliance 4 Ed. No idea if that group has regrouped but if it has it will have downtowner participation. PTA leadership pushing their view of equity with the district will piss off not just some of its member schools but, too, the greater community of Seattle schools supporters and the district knows it. It's the third rail of SPS. The arrival of charters and growing private school enrollments means some families have choices and will walk if rules on how parents can support their school gets too draconian. If schools want to take on a sister school with time and advocacy and money, PTA can and maybe should help facilitate that. Anything more forceful will blow up. Zero doubt about that.


Historian said...

This isn't the first time a few people on the SCPTSA tried push their vision onto others. Does anyone remember the SCPTSA pushing charter schools front and center?

Two SCPTSA board members are running for Seattle School Board. It is time for Chandra Hampson and Liza Rankin to share their views with the public.

Anonymous said...

"if everyone doesn't have this, no one should."

That is exactly the approach SCPTSA is taking and as others have pointed out, it's totally inequitable.

Equity is saying "if everyone doesn't have this, everyone should, and we will do what it takes to make sure everyone has it." Pooling PTA resources seems a totally sensible approach. Call people in to a solution, rather than just take stuff away from kids, is so much smarter and more effective.

Reducing everyone to the bare minimum is exactly the type of approach that we were all told was "fake equity." And it widens the gaps between kids in public schools and kids in private schools. One has to wonder if maybe that's actually the point. SCPTSA increasingly seems to be aligned with Amazon and Gates and the other corporate ed reform groups, pushing policies that undermine teachers and classes and will send parents fleeing the district. At this rate I think it's a matter of months, maybe even weeks, before SCPTSA leaders begin endorsing charter schools.


Anonymous said...

Reducing everyone to the bare minimum is exactly the type of approach that we were all told was "fake equity." And it widens the gaps between kids in public schools and kids in private schools.

Not just the gap between kids in public schools vs. private schools, but also between kids within public schools. If a PTSA is no longer funding a math specialist at a particular school, do you think kids won't get the math help they need? I'm pretty confident that parents with the means to provide outside math support will do so. It's the kids whose parents can't do so who will suffer.

As with many equity-related matters in Seattle, this seems to be more about optics (and/or in this case, setting the stage for an election, no?). Reducing PTSA funding at a high income school will make it LOOK like things are more equitable with a high FRL school ("look, this fancy school doesn't have field trips either!), but we all know that children's actual experiences won't actually be any more equitable. Overall, kids at the high income school will still have better access to extracurriculars, books, computers, backpacks, food, quality health care, safe neighborhoods, dual parent families, vacations/field trips, etc. The only ones likely to really lose out in this scenario are the lower income or otherwise challenged students at the school that dropped PTSA-funded, school-provided events/items in favor of more inequitable individual versions that parents backfill for their own kids.

Shouldn't the SCPTSA's goal be to figure out how to get more kids what they need, not fewer? State funding is only a piece of it. There will always be differences between schools, so they should focus partly on how best to deal with that.


Unknown said...

I wonder how much the district has come to count on PTA funding at the wealthier schools to allow them to shift funds to the schools that are "furthest from educational justice." If Downtown knows that Ballard and Roosevelt have all that extra cash rolling in, then it can shift more of that money to schools that don't have PTA's, foundations, booster clubs, etc.

And this whole PTA discussion takes our eyes off the fact that a lot of schools that are a long way from educational justice already receive more money per pupil because of things like Title I and other compensatory programs at the district, state, and federal levels. These schools also take in private grants and other initiatives that aren't PTA but directly benefit students. These should all be taken into account before we can reasonably fight about this.

I wish each school had to publish its actual per-pupil expenditures at the end of every school year, including the expenditures of affiliated groups that directly benefit students. Then, we could see where the inequalities in funding are, and then we could discuss those inequalities and whether they contribute to inequities.

If Chief Sealth is spending more dollars per pupil than Roosevelt, then we'll see that whatever inequities exist between CSHS and RHS aren't attributable to money. If, however, we see that RHS spends more dollars per pupil than CSHS, then the district could consider upping the per-pupil allotment to at least equalize the funding between the two schools.

I realize there are many barriers to doing this, including ones of which I am completely ignorant, but as we do so often around here, we're engaging in rhetorical posturing with very little hard data as to where the inequalities--and thus potential inequities--exist.


Anonymous said...

It's not the responsibility of tax payer funded schools to close any gap between its schools and private schools. That's a non starter.

I believe as soon as you start demanding that PTAs or other entities start sharing dollar for dollar their raised funds with other schools that's when you will see a mass exodus of students out of SPS. I would imagine charter proponents know this and are driving the equity narrative trap that so many progressives are falling for.

I think it might be too late to stop the wave that's coming.

Why should a board candidate without any opposition say anything? She was handed the position by Burke and Westbrook. Very sleazy, and makes me wonder if you are really a charter school proponent a wolf in sheep's clothing. Wow you were very patient.

Me thinks it's so!

Don't lie

Melissa Westbrook said...

I entered the race precisely because there was only one candidate and I don’t believe anyone should walk into office. The third person who entered the race, the charter person, dropped out after I did.

Do keep up.

Anonymous said...

WTF is educational justice? I will tell you, it's a fantastic liberal lie made up by some very strange people with very strange ideas. We live in the age of instant access to information at almost ZERO cost. Stop the propaganda the lies and the scare tactics.

Teach children READING WRITING and ARITHMETIC leave your activism at home next to your red book. Get out of their way!


Anonymous said...

This blog should be named "the new communist". These radical ideas about tearing apart the schools because someone in someway is not getting equity is straight out of the Bolshevist play book. Don't any of you know anything about history. They come for the children first! They turn the children against their opposition.

They will destroy the opportunities for everyone in the name of justice!


Melissa Westbrook said...

Hey JFK, it’s called reporting. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Outsider said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kellie said...

I don't know if we have a PTA fundraising problem or not. I do know there are two definite problems we absolutely do have and those problems have not changed a tiny bit as long as I have been involved in public schools.

1) The budget is almost impossible to read and it is nearly impossible for lay people to have any real understanding of what money enters a schools and where it comes from. Grant funding, The Families and Education Levy Money, Private organizations, Capital dollars ... the list of money that goes into public schools is long and the budget beyond opaque. My suspicion is that PTA dollars are barely a rounding error on the total budget.

2) SPS never seems to miss an opportunity to pit parents against each other. In 2004, the great enemy was option schools and their all city bussing. If we just got rid of all city bussing, then we would have more money for classrooms and close the gaps. So now the enemy is once again .. parents. There are a few schools that raise a lot of money. But by and large PTA dollars tend to benefit poor and lower middle class families the most. In many ways, PTA dollars "close the gaps" inside of a building.

Generous parents who want to support public schools are not the enemy.

old salt said...

The SCPTSA is a small amount of the external money flowing into schools. It's nothing compared to the booster clubs. And that is nothing compared to the man hours of volunteer time coming in to the district. I don't see spending the political capital to standardize this as an efficient way to help struggling students.

One reason this money is effective is because it is managed very bottom up. Filling the cracks. Like paying to refurbish a few microscopes a year instead of waiting as most of them become unusable then trashing them & applying for district funding for a new class set. The district is so top down that schools that depend on district money, even when there is more of it, can't get the flexibility to address the myriad little things that make a difference. Isn't that really a problem with how the district manages money.

Maybe it is time to reinstitute the old Alliance model of making grants for individual projects. PTSAs, businesses, community members could contribute to that.

WSS is suppose to make a floor level experience for each school. If we want field trips to be included in that then add it in.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Outsider, I am going to do you a BIG favor. I'm going to reprint your remarks because it's one point of view that might be worth considering. However, for future reference, we DO NOT allow namecalling. Please do not do it again.

Kellie, I also wonder, if the district said, "No more buying of materials for science classes", would that then cause schools that had the ability to fundraise and buy those materials to turn around and tell the district, "Okay but you now need to give us supplies." If PTAs are buying teaching and learning supplies for their schools, they actually do help the district's bottom line.

reprinting for Outsider:

"I will never again join any PTA, and would stand up cheering if our school would switch to PTO.

"Child advocacy" and "building community and engagement" are just code words for pitting parents against each other based on differing philosophies and priorities. The inevitable result is alienation of parents on the losing side, and shrinkage of PTA into an exclusive cabal of the winners, vaguely disliked and not effective at anything. (PTAs are losing members, did you say? Smack my gob, who would have thunk.)

The primary mission of the PTA is fundraising. Always has been, always will be. Let me explain.

School bureaucrats have their logic. The will always gradually expand themselves until the building-level educational process is scraped to the bone and a bit further. It doesn't matter how much total public money you put into schools; sooner or later nearly all of it will be claimed by the bureaucracy, and nothing in the schools will change. In places with strong teacher unions, teacher salaries and benefits will play a similar role, growing to crowd out everything else. That, plus what do you think gives a bureaucrat prestige, career satisfaction, and industry kickbacks? It's not keeping schools supplied with copy paper. Bureaucratic egos feed on developing all the new buzz things, being on the cutting edge of ed tech, etc. So any discretionary money in the school system will always be drawn inexorably toward expensive boondoggles, and away from the everyday, school-level things that actually make schools function well.

The mission of the PTA is to provide a small pot of funds that is exempt from bureaucratic logic, and actually goes to all the little things that make schools happy and successful. Only PTA money can play that role. PTA funds cannot be replaced by funds from Olympia. Funds from Olympia will sooner or later always disappear down the bureaucratic drain, leaving the schools scraped to the bone.

If you want equity without loss of the benefits provided by PTAs, the only way would be to have the state give direct grants to PTAs (money flow that bypasses the bureaucrats and unions) based on some formula of how much they could be reasonably expected to raise given school demographics."

Melissa Westbrook said...

I also want to let readers know that RBHS has no microscopes and Franklin HS lent their to RBHS. This was reported at the Board meeting. No explanation if Franklin bought them on their own dime or with PTA help.

Bottom line is that this district is not providing schools with the funding needed to do the work to take the tests. That's pretty shameful.

Number Looker said...

Especially at the high school level, there are charitable 501c3 groups (foundations, booster clubs, PTSAs, etc.), but also a lot of fundraisers funneled through Snap Raise and Go Fund Me. Are those in addition to the charities? Or is money from Snap Raise and Go Fund Me then paid into existing charities?

Snap Raise takes a massive cut (25%?!). Go Fund Me seems to just have transaction fees now (about 3%). For example, it looks like Franklin made $14,203 for Mock Trial from Go Fund Me. Looks like Franklin's team just took 3rd place at nationals. Congratulations, Franklin!

A recent check on how much money Seattle's high schools brought in THIS academic year via Snap Raise and Go Fund Me:

Go Fund Me
Performing Arts $5960
Football $613
Cheer squad $7488
Track club $420
Football $3315
Girls’ Ultimate $1245
Vikings Ultimate Frisbee $1330
Total: $20,371

Football $4563
Orchestra $33554
Football $15,960
Theater $1706
Boys’ Basketball $3170
Power Lifting $3850
Total: $62,803

Go Fund Me
Robotics $3407
Mock Trial $14,203
Total: $17,610

Go Fund Me
Folklorico y Quinceanera after-school program $1,200
Senior photos $500
Ethics Bowl $5440
Total: $7140

West Seattle
Go Fund Me
Football $13,065
Tennis $100
Belize trip $1730
Family, Career, Community Leaders of America $2700
Total: $17,595

PTSA $7820
Track $200
Total: $8,020

Performing Arts $2996 (want $87,500)
Total: hey, they only have $84,504 left to go!

Ultimate $235
Total: $235

Nathan Hale
Go Fund Me
Latinx Unidx club $490
Family, Career, Community Leaders of America $65
Literary Magazine $100
Musical $13,588
Baseball $4782
Girls’ Volleyball $5454
Total: $24,479

Anonymous said...

Fact of life: parents will do for their kids. It is their responsibility, their duty, to support & nurture their kid to help them succeed.

Fair or unfair, no law, system, or state can legislate that fact out of existence. SPS or the PTSA are NEVER going to stop a parent from supporting their kid with whatever resources they have at their disposal.

They simply can't.

It is as if these PTSA types think they can wrest control of my pocketbook out of my hands. They can't.

I vehemently disagree with state & national level PTSA in terms of standardized testing & charter schools. They do not represent my values. But giving to my kids' school PTA would funnel 8% of my money to them. NO. NOT HAPPENING. NOT WITH MY DOLLARS.

So we completely stopped giving to PTSAs. Furthermore, my school's PTA budget made no sense to me. We did not have many F&RL kids at our school & I thought they ought to be the 1st priority. I stood in line before the start of school to acquire backpacks for our community for our kids. The PTA did not follow through. Another disturbing thing, the minimum cost to become a member could not be covered by a scholarship. Are they so tone deaf as to not understand $8 is $8, & that is an impossibility for many families? That $8 barrier is unnecessary & unacceptable.

So, we don't give. Not one dime. Haven't for many, many years.

But, actually, we do give.

-We give our kids teachers directly at the start of the year via amazon gift card & tell them to use it to support students or the classroom in whatever way they see fit (if they want to buy a kid a coat, or buy sharpies, vacuum cleaner, batteries, fan, or get themselves an ipad as a tool they need, so be it - we don’t ask. Teachers spend their own money in their classrooms & this is our way of pitching in)

-We ask school librarian for their book wish list & get them

-If the teacher wants to throw a party, we ask what they need & get it to them

-If the PE teacher is short of pumps or basketballs, we’ll get them some & spread the word to fellow parents who have the means & desire to help out

-For teacher appreciation week, we supply groceries for the teacher luncheon

-And finally, we give our kids teachers cash gifts, not exceeding the $50 max per calendar year, at xmas & year end. $100 may seem generous & is beyond the means of many, but on an hourly basis that $100 for 180 days of service the teacher provides is a very modest gift

The bonus of this style of giving? No fuss. Just see a need & address it. No overheads, no drama. Get the $ directly to answer a need. Not all needs. Not everywhere. But I believe that every contribution counts & the enemy of good is perfect. Need is need.

Another bonus? It is not tallied, so it doesn’t allow others to weaponize generosity as a political football or label the giver as selfish (very Orwellian, put down & call out a donor for giving). Is this going to make some mad? Yes. But I don't know what goes on in 100 schools & 1,000 classrooms. I see what I see, I do what I can. Instead of tearing this down, PTSA should focus on inspiring with opportunities to give money, time, expertise to support kids.

Seattle PTSA ought to focus on *adding* to kids, not berating parents or schools. Alienating parts of their public school parent base will impact their effectiveness. Seems like they don't notice how many have silently left the room. Their membership is eroding. PTSA might be well intentioned, but they might also be counter-productive, driving many away & into the land of "off book" financing.

They have to remember they are a charity. Plain & simple. They are asking for donations. Pontificating to would-be donors makes little sense. Especially when one can give directly to organizations that support vulnerable families & kids: http://www.elcentrodelaraza.org/ https://www.treehouseforkids.org/ https://www.parenttrust.org/


Anonymous said...

So if PTA funding is out, where would some of this money come from? Well, it’ll be the Alliance for Education, Amazon, Gates, and the other ed reform usual suspects. SCPTSA is willing to take power from parents across the district and hand it to billionaires. They’re either naive or complicit. One wonders what is truly going on there.

No Gates

Anonymous said...

If you can't afford $8 then Seattle is NOT the place for you. I can find $8 laying on the streets. Come on you're being ridiculous. If it were $80 sure. There have been many time in my life when I didn't have $80 to spare. Did ypu write all that just to make a point that people don't have $8?

Get real

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I agree with Kellie. PTA dollars hired a math specialist at my daughter's elementary, and she wouldn't have passed her assessments workout that enrichment.

We were poor renters in that neighborhood riding on the charity of the families in the neighborhood.

PTAs often come up with monies that allow principals to provide opportunities for kids.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Get Real, you either have never been poor or homeless. I suggest you go look in the mirror and check that privilege.

Bye, I applaud your initiative.

Anonymous said...

Number Looker - For the record, I am involved in Roosevelt High School Theater and I have never heard of Snap Raise so I looked into it and this Roosevelt Roughrider fundraiser is a different high school in Portland http://roosevelttheatre.org/main/staff

Not sure if all the other ones are accurate, but Roosevelt High School in Seattle never used Snap Raise to raise money.

Theater Mom

Anonymous said...

We "were" poor renters, so are you poor now? Looks like you are still in Seattle did you some how become rich? Your story seems iffy. You don't know me. I have been poor many time in my life. I figure out what I needed to do to not be poor. I'm not rich, but I work hard and smart and that keeps my head above water.

I didn't have a large pay check from a publicly funded institution. I have never work outside of the private sector. I'm not collection a pension nor will I ever.

Get real

Anonymous said...

Hey kids! You raise legitimate questions. But doing so in anonymity and for the sake of it doesn't help ANYONE, really! have you actually attended a SCPTSA meeting or had an actual conversation with any of its members? Just today, SCPTSA had their general meeting and there was a rich discussion. Not everyone agreed (me included) but we got to talk.
I am a critic. I like to challenge. But I have respect for those who step up to the plate and take the time to do the work.
Come out the woodwork peeps! It really is better thank typing what a horrible job others are doing without actually attempting to be part of a collective solution.

Miss Apatos

Linh-Co said...

@ Don't Lie - Anyone can run for school board. Why didn't you put your name in the race? Four years is a long time for a volunteer position that takes 20 hours or more a week when you have a full-time job. The position wasn't ours to give. Put up or shut up!

SEA/ PTA?? said...

It is not uncommon for there to be building disagreements related to the use of PTA funding. Some teachers are upset that booster clubs take funding from PTAs. Parents and teachers sometimes disagree about the use of PTA dollars. These have led to strained relationships in our schools. Why has the Seattle Education Association decided to include PTA funding in it's contract negotiations. Where is the P(aren't) in the PTA for SEA negotiations? This is building level disagreements on steroids!

Anonymous said...

Miss Apatos, I appreciate the invitation, truly. It does though reinforce the perception and perhaps the reality that SCPTSA leaders are actually really privileged but don't acknowledge it. It's pretty hard for a lot of parents to make it out to an in-person meeting on a school day or a school night. In an expensive city it's a true privilege to be able to take the time to do the work. The assumption that every white kid in north Seattle is riding to school in a Tesla in between trips to Europe and time on the ski slopes with the personal instructor and either has no classroom needs or has tons of financial resources to meet those needs is a serious impediment to real action to fix our schools.

It would be one thing if this was a purely intellectual exercise, but when SCPTSA winds up leaving entire schools without nurses or counselors, there will be actual kids who face actual harms as a result. Again, it's pretty easy to make bold if empty and politically naive statements about shared suffering sending everyone to Olympia to successfully fix a broken tax code when you know in the back of your head that your own kid won't ever go into anaphylactic shock at school or that if they did you've been able to pay to buy them an epi-pen or show them how to use an epi-pen or be sitting at home Facebooking with your SCPTSA friends and able to quickly pop over to the school to get your kid if they are having an allergic reaction - and do so without having to worry about whether insurance will cover it.

There are some people who actually do get this, but who cannot resist the opportunity to take Melissa and her blog readers down a peg, even at the expense of kids. It's a sad state of affairs.


SEA/PTO? said...

SEA states they wrapped up their day with SEA's interest in more flexible PTO framework, that needs to be balanced with daily unfulfilled positions.


Outsider said...

Dear Miss Apatos,

Higher levels of the PTA could be useful in helping school PTAs with governance, budgeting, accounting, and whatnot. But once groups like SCPTSA step out into politics, and pretend to speak for all parents and students when they don't, they are inherently divisive. SCPTSA and "collective solution" don't belong in the same paragraph.

When SCTPSA tries to undermine the fundraising of school PTAs, it actually harms students.

Whatever you do, you do for yourself and your ideological allies, not for any collective solution. If you feel unappreciated, well, I'd have to call you perceptive on that point. If that bothers you, feel free to stop.

Anonymous said...

@Dorian and Outsider,
Come out come out wherever you are! SPS desperately needs your voice. The voice of the underprivileged that cannot come to meetings but have the best ideas and words!
You two are cute. Let's wait for Mel to come fix everything. Yay!

Miss Apatos

Anonymous said...

Per Pupil spending by school is reported on the OSPI website. I had gathered this information back in March in preparation for a meeting, and rechecking this morning I see numbers have evolved but the order remains largely the same:

(As of 3/14/2019)

Garfield $11480
Ballard $12125
Roosevelt $12782
Ingraham $13144
West Seattle $13384
Franklin $13726
Chief Sealth $13929
Nathan Hale $14150
Rainier Beach $15871

(As of 6/4/2019)

Garfield $12776
Ballard $12973
Roosevelt $13100
Ingraham $14062
West Seattle $14203
Franklin $14356
Nathan Hale $14639
Chief Sealth $15144
Rainier Beach $15424


Anonymous said...

I think it is great when PTAs raise and share money with kids who need extra assistance. Some kids and some schools absolutely deserve extra resources. Our PTA shares some and I wish they would share more.

That said, I agree with Kellie that demonizing PTA fundraising is a distraction from the real issues. Our school uses PTA fundraising to keep our school counselor at 0.5. Funding from the district allows her to work between 1 to 3 days a week, depending on the year.

The SPS budget published for this year has 19% spending on support services. (Links Below.) Edmonds reports spending 11% on this Bellevue reports 12% support services spending. We need to demand why every school does not have a 0.5 counselor and not allow for hand waving excuses.

Seattle Budget: https://bsd405.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/2018-19-F195-Preliminary.pdf
Edmonds Budget: https://www.edmonds.wednet.edu/UserFiles/Servers/Server_306670/File/Departments/Business%20and%20Operations/Business%20Services/Citizen's%20Guide%20to%20the%20Budget/2017-18%20Citizens%20Guide.pdf
Bellevue Budet: https://bsd405.org/departments/finance/budget/

Bring support services as a percentage of the total budget in line with Bellevue or Edmonds and the money freed up would be 5 times in excess of what elementary school PTAs spend to keep their school counselors, etc. I want spending priorities to be at the school - not at the central offices.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You said:
"One of the biggest overriding issues in PTA funding is the ability for some PTAs to provide staffing. This seems to upset many parents. I hear words like "outrageous", "ridiculous", etc.

Just to remind readers as an example, the district has several dual language programs. For dual-language to really work at the elementary level, you must have two instructors in every classroom. In SPS that means a teacher and an IA. The district does NOT fund those IAs. The only reason McDonald and JSIS have them is because of the incredibly hard task each year that their PTAs take on in order to fund the IAs. (The elementary dual-language programs in the south - with more low-income families - make use of the ELL IAs to fulfill this room. Those IAs are funded thru Title One.) So the district gets to continue to have this very desirable program without funding it in its entirety"

All of my kids attended JSIS. As you said, we are not terrible parents for raising A LOT of money for AIs. However, you are wrong when you say "for dual language to really work at the elementary level, you must have two instructors in every classroom" That is plain false. More concerning is your assertion that the lower income dual language schools "make use" of the ELL IAs. That is a gross mischaracterization. Those schools DO NOT have designated IAs in every classroom to ensure a twosome in all dual language classes. How do I know? I picked up the phone and asked.
A lot have been said whether you are a journalist or (fill in the blank, I don't care). Whatever you consider yourself, you need to be cautions not to spread misinformation.
Thank you for reading.
Now you can either delete my comment or argue with me and have the last word. After all, it's your blog.

Educate Yoself

Melissa Westbrook said...

SEA/PTO, you said this:

"Some teachers are upset that booster clubs take funding from PTAs."

Did you mean that booster clubs compete with PTA for dollars or PTAs are actually giving booster clubs dollars?

Miss Apatos, do not use nicknames for anyone here, including me, unless you know the person. Also, watch that tone; if you don't have something constructive or informative to say, don't make a comment.

Educate Yoself, years ago - when Michael DeBell was in office and we had different people at the top, I was told by him and staff that for dual language to work, they needed IAs. Indeed, if the IAs are NOT needed, why would parents - year after year - at McDonald and JSIS raise something like $350,000 to continue to pay for them? That's way too much money if you really don't need them. I didn't say all classrooms in every dual language school has an IA but many do. I hope you see the disconnect from what you are saying. No parents in their right minds would work for that kind of money to buy staff if they didn't think it was necessary for their program.

I can certainly call and ask myself but I'm pretty sure if I look at the websites, both district and PTA at those schools, I'll see what I have stated.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa, it's not a given that "for dual-language to really work at the elementary level, you must have two instructors in every classroom." Maybe SPS--and DeBell, and JSIS/McDonald parents, etc.--treat it like a fact, but they are incorrect. There are plenty of successful immersion programs around the country that don't require two instructors per classroom.

I have long had concerns about the way SPS does "immersion." We came to SPS with immersion experience in another state, and the quality of education in that program was far superior. We had only one teacher per classroom, and the PTA raised hardly any money. A neighbor came from an immersion program in yet another state and felt the same--the SPS program was more expensive and less effective.

Part of the issue is the model SPS uses. With multiple immersion languages per school, you are increasing the costs and decreasing the effectiveness. Additionally, half-day immersion is not likely to be as effective as full-day, especially when the "immersion" part of the day focuses on things like math where the vocabulary is much more limited. I've never understood why SPS doesn't adopt a full-day, single-language model. If you're going to offer immersion, go all in.

So I suppose your statement can be both true AND false. It's false in that LI can indeed work very well without two teachers, as seen elsewhere. However, due to the way SPS has decided to deliver its LI programs, maybe it's true that "for dual-language to really work at the elementary level" in Seattle, "you must have two instructors in every classroom"--although even then, I'd question that "really work" bit.


Historian said...

There is a difference between the SCPTSA board that tried to push charter schools and the existing SCPTSA board. The existing SCPTSA board involved Seattle Education Association. Very powerful. Two of these individuals are running for school board.

I have seen PTAs in non title 1 jobs do a good job providing opportunities and supporting low income students.

I fully expect a cadre of individuals that will be name calling.

Too bad it has come to this.

Robin said...

Implying that Title 1 funding is the same for Concord’s Dual Language model as PTA funded IAs for North End Dual Language models is misleading. Our program was developed to support our community which is over 50% heritage speakers. All of our DL classrooms are team teachers (one English one Spanish) which works because of the population. The IAs are not classroom teachers, they are there to support our kids who qualify financially as Title 1, who are primarily native Spanish speakers. It works well for the program but it does not mean that Title 1 funds support our program (and the big problem with that comparison is that is supports people’s assertion that PTA fundraising is comparable to Title 1 funding or somehow a way to “catch up”.
Also, private/PTA fundraising should be radically reduced or eliminated and we should all organize to advocate for full funding from the State.

Anonymous said...

"Bureaucratic egos feed on developing all the new buzz things, being on the cutting edge of ed tech, etc. So any discretionary money in the school system will always be drawn inexorably toward expensive boondoggles, and away from the everyday, school-level things that actually make schools function well.

The mission of the PTA is to provide a small pot of funds that is exempt from bureaucratic logic, and actually goes to all the little things that make schools happy and successful. Only PTA money can play that role. PTA funds cannot be replaced by funds from Olympia. Funds from Olympia will sooner or later always disappear down the bureaucratic drain, leaving the schools scraped to the bone."

THIS. Completely.

@Outsider ((applause))


Anonymous said...

Robin, it sounds like you want to make an exception for your school and your students' needs, while not showing any interest whatsoever about needs of other kids at other schools. Why do you believe kids at other schools should not have a nurse or a counselor?

Have you gone to Olympia to advocate for full funding from the state? What was your experience when you did? What is your analysis of the obstacles to getting full funding? What is your plan to overcome them? How do you define "full funding"? What would that cover in the classroom and at the school? What would it not cover? What would be left for districts to fund with local levies?

I would be happy for PTA funding to go away too. But I need to see a plan for actually getting the full funding from the state you claim to want. What you have is the underpants gnome plan. Step 1: Eliminate all PTA funding. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Equity!

Given that kids would be hurt, perhaps in some cases literally, by an immediate elimination of PTA funding, you have the obligation to demonstrate to us all that you have some basic understanding of the state issues and a credible plan for addressing them.


Anonymous said...

The state has defined 'basic' education and claims it is funding it. See 'Cleary.' It took decades to get to this point and the rollout of the new funding equations and processes are in their early days. Already there are noticeable issues with it and Seattle is one of the districts hit hard by the problems, which need continued legislative focus to iron out. That will no doubt take many legislative sessions and that is best case with democrats in the majority.

Given this state of affairs, the SCPTSA is admirable for taking on the equity issue but misguided in its tactics. Reapportioning money and insisting that parents instead harangue legislature isn't going to work. First, you can't harangue people into activism. Encourage and educate, yes, but the stick isn't going to work. Secondly and more pragmatically, beyond straightening out McCleary issues, the legislature will slow walk any additional funding. It will be years, decades, of platitudes. Doesn't mean we shouldn't advocate. We should. But we cannot tell familiess that they can't work toward funding counselors, TAs, academic supports, health professionals, artists, musicians, coaches, supplies, uniforms, books etc etc etc to the best of their ability to come alongside what funds the district does have.

Frankly, if SCPTSA wants parents to get righteous, they might start with rolling out a plan to handle more transparent and more inclusive budgeting - operational and capital - decisions downtown. Facilitating PTSA "sister" school funding and volunteerism, in a collaborative manner might also be a winning tactic. Recognizing and celebrating school communities already doing their best to bring equity to their own and other city student bodies would be another great action.


Anonymous said...

P.S. Please excuse the misspellings and grammar above. This topic makes me boil for a number of reasons and typing fast then posting is never a good idea. Must remember to practice what I preach to my own students. LOL.


Robin said...

Frank I don't have an answer to most of your questions (just the first one: I do not believe that kids at other schools should not have a nurse or a counselor). I think that currently, while schools are underfunded and while some communities have the means to work on closing those funding gaps, those communities are doing that, and the rest of the schools are missing out. If we all stopped fundraising and focused on advocacy I think we would see results much more quickly. I am not working on fundraising in my school community any longer (although I feel guilty about what will happen) because I can't participate in what is (in my opinion) a super crooked system. I'm going to work on outreach to my community in multiple languages why and how we should be working towards full funding.

Slash/Burn said...

The state requires districts to have a four year projected budget. SPS is expected to have an $100M deficit.

It is incumbent upon the board not to accept a teacher contract that will plunge us further into debt.I can't imagine Olympia being sympathetic towards a fiscally irresponsible district.

Anonymous said...

I have a very naive question. Could the City of Seattle fund an appropriate number of nurses and counselors in schools? I know some "wrap around" services are funded by the City. Can the City legally fund all health/mental health services in SPS?


kellie said...

Regarding dual language and Melissa's reporting.

Charlie Mas used to say, "I don't know what's true, I only know what the district reports." During capacity and budget meetings over the last few years, under both Superintendent Juneau and Nyland, dual language was discussed exactly as reported.

It may be a misconception or misunderstanding about the requirement for multiple adults, but that information is repeated regularly by staff during budget meetings. Multiple times I have heard staff discuss the additional costs of language immersion and whether or not, language immersion is sustainable under the post McCleary funding model.

Robin said...

Kellie, sure, that is understandable from your perspective (and also frustrating from my perspective). It is why I speak up every time I hear the misconception repeated. I do see that it is a pretty fine point, but I think it is really important to understand that Title 1 funds are not comparable to PTA funds (also a misconception I have seen pushed at a District level). I have an explanation that is perhaps more enlightening than what I posted earlier (this from an IA at my school): We have IAs for our ELL program and we are staffed at a ratio of 1 IA for every 35 students who qualify for ELL services, just like every other school in the district. I believe this expresses more clearly the difference between our Title 1 funded IAs and PTA-funded IAs at other Dual Language schools

Our other IAs are for SPED and I'm sure their ratios are the same as the rest of the district too.

We do not have IAs paid for through free and reduced lunch funds.

We do not have IAs for our DL program and our DL classrooms are not given IAs because they are DL.

Our ELL IAs serve our ELL students. They work in both DL and traditional classrooms, and do not work with students who do not qualify for ELL services. Our ELL IAs are staffed by the ELL Department downtown. We do not have any say in who is assigned to us and what languages they speak. We have mostly Spanish-speaking IAs because most of our students who qualify for ELL services are Spanish speakers. We also have one IA (part-time) who speaks Somali.

No classroom gets more than 30 minutes of IA support each day because we have so many students who qualify and we have to serve all of them and try to serve each student in the DL program in both English and Spanish by apportioning the services of our certs and IAs as equitably as possible given the needs to the students in each class (reading/writing/math).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Robin, you said that I implied that Title One funding of IAs is the same as PTAs funding them. I did not mean that. I said that the district has set the program up this way. I'm sure the IAs in the Title One schools are there to primarily help the students they are charged with overseeing. I also know that IAs are not teachers and I never said that.

You also said:

"If we all stopped fundraising and focused on advocacy I think we would see results much more quickly. . I am not working on fundraising in my school community any longer (although I feel guilty about what will happen) because I can't participate in what is (in my opinion) a super crooked system."

A couple of questions:
- Results from whom? The district? The state? I'm not against stoppage of fundraising in the short term - I think the district might get the message for sure. But how long would that take?
- "a crooked system" - Are you saying something illegal is happening because that's generally what crooked means.

Donor Ready said...

Why isn't there a list of PTAs that need more funds? Put some clickable links on it. That is literally the least anyone who cares about PTA funding equity could do. Where is the list?

Anonymous said...


I love your thinking! Of course one of the challenges is that some high poverty elementary schools do not have PTAs or PTOs, so if you wanted to donate, that would not be straightforward.

Northgate elementary school is title I and has a Facebook page for its PTO.

Maple Elementary has a PTSA page & you could click and donate: https://www.mapleptsa.com/

Emerson and Bailey Gatzert elementary schools don’t appear to have a PTA page.

Aki Kurose Middle School PTSA has a donate button at its page https://akikuroseptsa.wordpress.com/

Rainier beach high school PTSA say doesn’t seem to have a website anymore, but does have a Facebook page. Melissa once posted about Rainier Beach HS kids raising money so that they could travel for academic field trip, it was a go fund me page, I clicked and donated.


Anonymous said...

RBHS’s PTSA lost their tax exempt status four years ago. I don’t know how that affects their status with the state PTA, but contributions to them are not deductible and they are likely subject to income tax on any income they receive.


Background Info

Robin said...

Melissa I appreciate that you did not mean that PTA funded IAs are the same as Title 1 funded IAs. That is how I perceived it.
My big argument for advocacy is that if we all organized to push hard in Olympia, for the State to fully fund, that we would see results quickly. More quickly than we will see them at this rate, when we are all mostly distracted by funding our own schools and communities.
I did not mean to imply that the system is illegal, just that it is unethical and unjust.

Anonymous said...

"...Why has the Seattle Education Association decided to include PTA funding in it's contract negotiations. Where is the P(aren't) in the PTA for SEA negotiations? .."

That is very interesting considering that it was not part of the bargaining survey they sent out to all SEA represented staff. I wonder how it was they decided this was important enough to include in the bargaining. I imagine it was kind of like how they decided, without checking with all science teachers, to support the adoption of Amplify. I wonder who, exactly, they are representing anymore, because it sure doesn't seem to be me.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Counselors. said...

Robin, you say, "we should all organize to advocate for full funding from the State." OMG, what do you think we've been doing? What do you think is happening in states all across the country?

The McCleary suit began in 2007. And to steal from Washington's Paramount Duty, "For 40 years, Washington’s public school funding has been undermined by state government cutbacks, band-aid solutions, budget tricks, unfunded voter mandates, and indifference to student, parent, and teacher concerns. The State still does not fund what our K-12 students actually need."

The time for kids to have access to a counselor is now, not after eastern Washington takes a political turn.

Anonymous said...

I know of one PTA school and one site council school who do not support this resolution as proposed and will not be participating in the effort.


Robin said...

Counselors, I can only answer for my community and for my 6 years as an SPS parent. In that time we've done basically nothing in terms of organizing and advocacy. Our small PTA is run ragged trying to put out the fires caused by lack of resources. I doubt more than a handful of families at my school are aware of McCleary and PTA funding inequities. I myself barely understand the funding issues and I have a really hard time getting any info translated into the three main languages spoken at my school. We just don't have the capacity to organize. I understand the urgent needs our kids have for supports and resources. I just think that we are wasting our time by trying to supply these things school by school and that ultimately this individualized system benefits higher-income children and fails lower-income children. If we advocated together and did outreach into all SPS communities we could work together to address the real problem instead of the symptoms.

Anonymous said...

I gotta be honest and say I don't think the PTA funding issue is going to work the way we're going about it. We're doing this top-down thing where schools and families feel pitted against each other, and we're scolding the volunteerism that is the foundation of everything PTA does. I think it's dead on arrival for the time being because of the divisive way it's being approached, forced top-down.

Sometimes forcing things top-down is the best way, but not in this case.

What would have made more sense is to get this going from the ground up. That means SCPTSA could have engaged the Legislative VPs on each PTA board, getting them to talk to their communities for ideas "how can we solve this problem," "what ideas do you have," "what is the best way to do this," "do you want to volunteer to do this" and so forth. Then having all PTAs send delegates at a big meet-up to hash out a general plan. That grassroots approach would have easily found buy-in from most PTAs and families, who would not feel coerced, and it would have been easily actionable.

The divisive finger-wagging/force-feeding we're doing instead isn't going to work. It's going to backfire and slow down the process for a couple of years.


Anonymous said...

It also doesn't help when one side throws the word "racist" around just because someone else gives an opinion that is different from theirs. When they do things like that, it's becomes pretty clear that they have no interest in finding common ground.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Ditto Teresa. And, there seems to be a new definition for racism that is much broader and entails some amount of judgment on the part of the person calling another person "racist."

Anonymous said...

It's great that there is a new crop of parents in SPS who are concerned about some schools raising hundreds of thousands of dollars at auctions and justifying it by saying that the district "gives extra money" to highly impacted schools. That district money doesn't begin to address the disparities.

Sure, the PTA-raised money benefits some needy kids in the buildings, but it sure benefits the money raisers' kids, too--in the form of activities and classes that are not par district-wide. If the PTA is raising money for social-emotional help, that will help the students who may now be learning next to a child who is acting out less. Win-win!!

For the person who said that it's natural for parents to want to do the most for their kids, I say this: "public" schools exist for the common good. The system should be set up to put brakes on your mentality.

The arc of justice is bending. For the past ten years on this blog, the issue of PTA funding equity has been a non-starter. The conversation started after Portland Public Schools had the ethics to address the issue years ago.

I guess it took time for the me-crowd to matriculate and move on, plus the fact that some newcomers have moved to the region and see these long-standing, glaring disparities and aren't pleased.

Great news that SEA is taking a stand on this issue. Sure, they should have included it in a survey, but they are doing the right thing nonetheless by calling out the inequities that PTA funding has created for years.

NoMore GravyTrain

Melissa Westbrook said...

And where has the SCPTSA been all these years? It sure took a long time for the discussion to get anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Your opinion on this blog has been mostly on the fence, too, until about a year ago.

In fact, you had a back and forth with Liza Rankin around that time on here after she advocated the pursuit of equity in funding.

Seems that you tried to keep that ship from sailing

Gravy Train

Alsept Teresa said...

SEA did not include this in the survey to staff, something they could have easily done, because they know that the majority of those they are supposed to represent would be against this. If our union doesn’t listen to us, then what is their purpose?

Anonymous said...

When SPS leadership closes the achievement gap by driving away the middle and upper class kids to private schools and the higher achieving poor kids to charter schools, just who exactly will be better off? How is this a good thing?

Fed Up

Anonymous said...

Threatening to "go private" when real equitable change is proposed is a well-worn go-to that can always be counted on in these discussions.

Gravy Train

Anonymous said...

"Let's all work together to make the world (and SPS) a better place!" is a great message many of us can get behind. Unfortunately the message that many are hearing is "Your kid and your kid's education doesn't matter at all." It is a difficult conversation and I think both sides should think about the words they are using.


Anonymous said...

Gravy Train,

With 30% of Seattle's kids in private school and more joining them every year,
"going private" is obviously more than a threat. The growth in charters will provide this same opportunity for people of lesser economic means, too.

"Equitable change" needs to be more than just tearing things down.

Fed UP

Anonymous said...

#TakeBackSCPTSAfromTakeBackSCPTSA. There. Fixed the hashtag campaign.

How dare SCPTSA and SEA dictate how we support our school. A school that will have all its monetary needs met when pigs fly. Want to see PTA and teacher support drop like a rock citywide when more parents get wind of this? Keep right on pushing.


Anonymous said...

30% have been in private schools for years. More affluent families moving in will drive this up further, and has.

SPS makes some horrible decisions, no doubt.

Addressing the issue of PTA funding, which is also being addressed/has been addressed around the country, should not be conflated with other issues.

Seattle is finally waking up to the ethics of PTA funding, much later than many other places.

Way, way overdue.

Gravy Train

Melissa Westbrook said...

NoMore GravyTrain, no one was talking about PTA sharing a decade or more ago. Oh wait, yes there was someone. It was the Whittier PTA way back in 2001 or so. We had a great principal, Greg Imel, who made the choice he wanted to serve a community that really needed him so he went to Dunlap (and then onto Bailey Gatzert, which at the time, was 90% FRL). Like I said, a great guy.

When he moved to Dunlap, he found they had no PTA. He told us that was the main thing he missed from Whittier. So we banded together and helped walk some moms thru the process and also donated money to get them started.

I'd bet there are many stories like that but, they got no publicity at the time (probably because that wasn't why people were trying to help).

But the main responsibility rests with SCPTSA and the district. Parents should let the district know their thoughts but the district/Board has to act.

I have never been on the fence on discussion. Never. But it's a complicated situation and this "no more fundraising ever" is not going to fly. And not going to happen. But a discussion about sharing definitely could.

I will say that if fundraising were curtail and some of the staff/academic services were cut, then those schools that DO fund that kind of thing will then be entitled to ask the district to fund their school.

Again, the district LOVES this funding because then they have fewer schools to fund for basic education.

Anonymous said...

So what's to prevent schools from switching to a PTO format? If they aren't a PTA, would they still have to share funds? Hale switched to a PTO format because the PTA there didn't fund raise. Fund raising was handled by the Hale Foundation which is set up just for Hale. Forcing PTAs to share funds isn't going to help. Like someone said above, it needs to start from the groundup.


Anonymous said...

“Going Private” isn’t a threat, it’s a savings. And it’s right in line with other cost savers like Running Start. Does the district get all scared when people say “If I can’t have fencing lessons at school, I’ll just go to running start.”? No! They say, “yippee, we’ll give your desk to someone else.” Ed bloggers can wring their hands all they want. But, you can’t have it both ways. If “ed” is truly underfunded then you want LESS students in public ed, not more. Duh! Washington state has 83,000+ private school students, and countless more home schoolers. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. If they all returned to “public”, we’d be in a world of hurt. A big THANK YOU to all those people paying their own way at private schools.. Because at the end of the day, more students doesn’t mean more taxes are collected to pay for them.

As to PTSA and other donations. Those should be collected and redistributed at the same percentage rate as the basic school funding. Even Bellevue does this.

Private Goods

kellie said...

Your point of view about PTA fundraising tends to be greatly informed by the point of view of the argument. The argument is completely different depending on whether or not you look at this problem on a schools basis, district basis, regional basis, state wide basis or national basis.

Folks like Gravy Train that believe that PTA fundraising is a source of inequities have a valid point at the district level of this conversation and they tend to believe this despite a ton of contradictory evidence, because the evidence comes from the other four points of view.

PTA funds are a form of leveling at the school level. There are lots of wealthy families in public schools in Seattle and they share that with others at a school level. This has terrible optics at a district level but at the school level, there are poor families in every single schools and PTA funds do a tremendous amount of good for poor and lower middle income families. Ironically this is is a laudable goal for true integration to have an actual mix of incomes at a school.

Most folks agree that the problem with Brown vs Board of Education was that the results was district level desegregation efforts, rather than state wide efforts. This led to the well documented "white flight." However, in the 2000s we don't have white flight any longer. Because of charter schools, we have more segregation in this country than ever before. When districts adopt draconian policies we have flight in every demographic group.

While there are more students in Seattle since the baby boom, enrollment is declining. Families have choices and when policies make FAMILIES the enemy, then it is reasonable to expect that folks will leave.

Anonymous said...

I have 2 problems with this campaign.

1) As noted by others, the messaging is abysmal as is the rollout. To announce that your parent group is in talks with SEA with little notice to membership and with a finger-waving multi-page screed, righteous and high handed in tone, about the 'correct' way to handle staff funding comes off as extremely, imperiously top down. It's the same issue parents complain that SPS does, so to see its own parent leadership group do the same? It's alienating. It's especially alienating for schools, such as mine, who look at equity in every dollar they distribute within our community.

2) Asking parents to take a flier on fundraising in lieu of begging the state for more money that may eventually, after decades, trickle back to their kids' school, isn't a realistic ask. It's just not. Nor is asking PTA-types to not raise money for their schools while allowing "foundations" "booster clubs" and "nonprofits" to raise and distribute money as they wish. Again, as others have noted, PTAs fill in the funding gaps that the district, state, and all those other private organizations leave open. Sure, perhaps there are a few overzealous uber-privileged PTAs in Seattle, but I believe that's not the case for the vast, vast majority, who are just trying to provide students at their facilities with the basics. Perhaps this SCTPSA campaign would be more effective if it contained actual numbers or asked us to rally around gathering them: What do all of our schools fundraise? What do schools receive and how can SPS make that funding more transparent.THEN, with much better messaging, parents could rally around a different distribution of funding...if that's the correct answer. Who knows? There's no system-wide transparency around funding right now.

Involved Parent

Anonymous said...

HP right with you. Nothing stops PTAs from flipping to PTOs. Hale also flipped because it was sick of SCPTA politics. Hmmmmm. Nothing stops PTOs from operating as they wish and that includes funding. Looks like SCPTSA is trying to stop the PTO flip by coming out with some agreement with SEA and perhaps the board around funding. Fine but guess what? No PTO funding, no high school foundations either. Or Gates-type grants. Period. Lawsuit city. Parent against parent. School against school. Is that what PTSA and SEA really want? Is that what SPS needs?When parent funding is not the enemy of equity?

Why can't these groups do something simple: Encourage every PTSA to take on a sister/brother relationship with a less-resourced school. Get the parents AND teachers AND staff involved. Those are the Ts and and Ss in PTSA. When those pairings have happened, nurture and learn. Then come back with next step funding recommendations. And yes, again, SPS needs to get it together on explaining funding in a more understandable way.

Involved Parent

Anonymous said...

@Teresa. I'm an SPS teacher and I totally agree with you. SEA has not engaged its members in any of these discussions. The union is supposed to be "us". How can it be representing "us" when they aren't even talking to us.
Teacher too