Widening the Funding Gaps, One Auction at a Time

I skimmed this this op-ed piece on the insidious side of PTA fundraisers over a rushed breakfast this morning, and then read it more carefully tonight.

I always have very mixed feelings when I hear that one of our strongest teacher ed grads has been hired as a science/art/reading/technology specialist in a school in which such positions are funded by PTA auctions, as if students in these schools are entitled to the particularly focused and skilled instruction of “specialists”.

One the one hand, I know that these teachers will give these kids a good sense of the world beyond their subdivisions.

On the other hand, I know that children attending other schools in the same district will bounce in their seats with joy to have science instruction once or twice a month, after the Spring testing season.

A few years ago, I did research in a school in which young children had decided that it was cool to ride the bus. Their stay-at-home moms supported their choice and dutifully put them on the bus each morning. At the end of the day, though, the SUVs would line up in the school driveway. The moms were there not to pick up their now-independent children, but instead to pick up their children’s backpacks so that the young ones would not be burdened by carrying them on and off the bus.

Fiercely competitive fundraisers. Chauffeurs for backpacks. And auditing the PTA’s budgetary bottom line before enrolling one’s children in an obviously otherwise excellent school.

When do we say enough?

UPDATE:

Jeanne notices that the link is no longer active. I’ve provided Cliff Notes below in a comment.

6 thoughts on “Widening the Funding Gaps, One Auction at a Time

  1. Jeanne January 13, 2008 / 3:04 pm

    I’m sad the op-ed is no longer a valid link! Boo Seattle Times. They should offer a “perma-link” option, like the New York Times does, so bloggers can post such things.

    Jeanne at Quakers & Social Class Blog

  2. janevangalen January 13, 2008 / 3:12 pm

    Bummer. They do not yet offer permalinks, even as they are taking a lot of paper space these days explaining how they are moving into the digital age.

    In a nutshell, the piece was written by a white mother in an integrated school that is slowly gentrifying. Their % of very low-income kids is declining slowly, meaning that they’ve lost some federal funding, but the number of high-income kids is not nearly as large as in other schools.

    In some Seattle schools, PTAs raise $200 and up on fundraising. Schools that can’t do this are disadvantaged, obviously. So at her school, they’re seeing parents of prospective kids looking at PTA budgets on their school tours to see what resources will be available to their kids, and there is some talk about “recruiting” parents who could contribute to fundraising, sort of like colleges that admit the not-quite-qualified children of potential donors.

    This, of course, complicates the school’s mission to remain diverse.

    The author calls for renewed concern about school funding in general.

  3. Jeanne January 15, 2008 / 4:40 pm

    Oh man.

    Not only is it not different from colleges, but no different from private elementary and high schools, where the real ‘prep’ comes for living a middle class and owning class life. Private schools recruit privileged kids because they can get lots of money from their parents. And then they take some of the money to recruit football and basketball players from the inner-city so they can say some of their money is given to ‘disadvantaged’ students.

    I wonder if parents are doing that in Minnesota.

    Jeanne at Quakers & Social Class Blog

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