As a longtime PTA member and leader, I read the story on fundraising (“Cashing in, getting extras“), and just couldn’t decide whether to weep or scream.
Talk about a clear example of this state failing to adequately and equitably fund its public schools. And here is a story about well-meaning, and in some cases desperate parents, trying to do what we as taxpayers have a constitutional and moral duty to do—which is to educate the next generation.
Of course, this causes horrible inequity, and makes parents in schools that can’t raise these kinds of funds feel bad. Should they? No! As a PTA, we regularly tell our members that their role should be parent education, parent involvement, providing extra treats or enrichment events for students and advocacy—another word for lobbying. Lobbying our legislators to do what they should be doing: funding our schools so that the wealth of the community does not almost totally control the kind of education the schools in that area are able to provide.
Sure many PTAs fund raise beyond the needs of their own budget, and in wealthy communities, they often raise huge amounts of money. Is that wonderful? I don’t think so. It only enables legislators to ignore the issue, and enables a few schools to have what most every school should have. Should they be helping schools in poorer communities know the secret of successful fundraising? Does anyone think this is the answer to having great schools everywhere? Again, No!
What should be promoted—and we as an organization sure try—is to urge parents and communities to spend their time actively working toward well-funded schools, and calling state legislators to account.
More of that, and less inequitable fundraising, just might really help ALL kids.
I apologize for stamping my feet so to speak, but fundraising is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Gretchen L. McDowell
Past President, Illinois PTA
Consultant, State Legislation