Should parent affluence influence how schools are funded?

I am sharing a post from Tuesday because it raises a question that I have yet to resolve in my own mind: Should school funding formulas take into account that some schools get more support from their parents, local businesses and neighborhoods?

If a school system knows that parents at certain schools can rally and raise money for new playground equipment, band instruments or classroom supplies, should more tax dollars go to the schools that receive no financial help from parents?

I can argue both sides. Deny the parent-active school money and it appears the school is being punished for having involved parents. Keep funding equal across schools no matter the parental contributions and you end up with uneven resources as the schools without active parents get less.

Many of you will maintain that the solution is simple: Push the parents at all schools to get involved, raise money and support their schools. But that is easier in communities with higher household incomes and two-parent households. It is hard to ask a single parent who is struggling to pay rent and light bills to lead a committee to raise $10,000 to buy computers.

I go back to one of my first sticker shock experiences with private school costs. Fifteen years ago, I was visiting a friend and noticed that she had a note on her fridge from the class parent of her daughter’s private kindergarten class. The note asked each parent to send in $100 to buy supplies for the class holiday parties that year.

I was stunned at the amount, but my friend said she received such requests all the time from her tony Atlanta private school. I thought about my own conflicts as a class parent in a public school asking for $10 from parents for the teacher gift.

What’s reasonable to ask of parents varies with the school. In my town, there are parents who could write a check for $100 this moment to the schools without hesitating or looking at their checking balance. But there are other parents who can’t write a check for $10 until Friday when they get paid.

Can the school systems weigh parent income and fund-raising capacity when they apportion funds?  Should they?

Here is the comment that prompted my musings about parent involvement:

For many of us in the Oak Grove / Lakeside district, we have worked long and hard to raise money, build nature trails, paint, landscape – do all we could because the School Board would not give us money to do so. One school board member told me when I was trying to replace the 30 year old stage curtains in the gym where the LHS orchestra played (not in an auditorium – a gym) that Lakeside had everything and “her students” needed money and we could go out and raise it. That school board member is running today and I hope she is defeated. All the schools in the North end of the county are over crowded as families move out and young families move in to the neighborhoods. Lakeside is finally being renovated after Tucker was completed. Now, they want to move us out? Why so far to Druid Hills? It makes no sense.

–By Maureen Downey, AJC Get Schooled blog

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Sick of Republicans

December 1st, 2010
4:40 am

This is the type of mentality that I am afraid we will have with Nancy Jester on the Board. The biggest majority of her campaigning was in the more affluent neighborhoods. I believe every child has the right to the best education possible and that schools is in the less affluent areas deserve as much as the ones in the more affluent. There is NO room in the education of our children for this type of behavior.

Private School Guy

December 1st, 2010
5:00 am

The allocation of Title 1 funds needs to be mentioned in this discussion. It purpose in some ways is to make up the difference. But the differences in parent support extend into other areas. With parent volunteers, gift to teachers and other perks there is a continual drain of quality staff from the poor schools to the wealthier ones. The staff pay scale needs to be recalculated so that quality teachers remain in the struggling and impoverished schools. But keep in mind this difference extends to other services as well from fire houses to the the tips that wait staff receive.

ScienceTeacher671

December 1st, 2010
6:18 am

If you look at the state Constitution, perhaps it shouldn’t, but it always will.

col

December 1st, 2010
6:21 am

I think it would be interesting to hear from parents at N. Fulton elementary schools. Most are in very affluent areas but I find that Fulton schools do such a good job that those PTAs don’t seem to be raising huge amounts of money for extras.

I hope some N. Fulton parents will chime in, because my perception certainly could be wrong.

darla

December 1st, 2010
6:33 am

Private School Guy is right. High poverty schools have Title 1 funds available. While you can’t use Title 1 money for playground equipment, you certainly can use it for computers, smart boards, and various other items that are often funded by the PTA at wealthier schools. Unfortunately, in DeKalb county, much of the Title 1 money has been sucked up into salaries for administrators and “coaches” rather than for teachers with direct student contact and materials chosen at the school house level.

col

December 1st, 2010
6:44 am

Hey Maureen — Do you have an contacts in Dallas Texas? I believe the school system does something like you are talking about — equalizing things.

Darla. There are plenty of schools in DeKalb that aren’t Title 1 that can’t raise enough money to make an impact.

Dunwoody Mom

December 1st, 2010
7:05 am

If Title 1 Funds were used properly by the school systems, we would not be having this conversation.

catlady

December 1st, 2010
7:10 am

Our school is one of the poor schools. No parental particpation in PTA meetings, 3 parent volunteers (of 630 kids), 2 volunteer mentors. I don’t begrudge schools that can get parents involved from having the EXTRAS, as that is how it is in the real world, as long as all schools ARE provided for from the general resources. That is the rub. Too many systems have cut out the very soul of the school, and teachers are like whipped dogs–totally demoralized. Of course it has an impact on the students and their education.

We DID have about 70 family members turn out for Thanksgiving lunch this year, which I was thrilled about. For the last several years our principal has staunchly DISencouraged this (too much trouble, too much disruption to our busy cramming of the students) but this year the word was freely circulated and we did see parents and grandparents. I am glad for the new emphasis on getting parents into the school, but it will take a long time to undo years of neglect and downright hostility.

Lee

December 1st, 2010
7:21 am

Oh good grief, here we go again.

I swear, I think years from now, when historians discuss the fall of the Peoples Republic of the Socialist States of America (formerly known as the USA), they will cite political correctness as one of the main factors.

The politically correct, equal outcomes crowd have been social engineering our schools for what, sixty years now? All the while, schools sink lower and lower and continue to graduate illiterates.

“It’s not fair that school A has parents that get out and work and raise money for band uniforms and playground equipmment while school B has to do without.”

From there, it is a small step to “It’s not fair that some students work hard and get to enroll in Gifted / Honors / AP classes, we should make it so that ALL students, no matter their aptitude or ability, can say that they attended one of these classes.”

Sound far fetched? It’s happening right now:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-11-23/news/ct-met-detracking-20101123_1_english-class-diversity-debate-rigorous-classes

One of the most important life lessons we can teach our children is that “Life is not fair.” Sometimes, you can do all the right things and still get smacked in the mouth.

It’s not fair that you got passed over for that promotion because they gave the job to the bosses golfing buddy (or nowadays, an affirmative action “diversity” candidate). But hey, you can wallow in self-pity and misery or you can roll your sleeves up and get back to work.

Maybe some of those parents from the poor school need to get off the couch and get busy.

BTW, it will be historians from other countries discussing the downfall of the USA. One of the last things they did was to eliminate the Bill of Rights and you can no longer criticize the new government. Think that is far fetched? Go to certain parts of Europe and deny the holocaust.

ABC

December 1st, 2010
7:50 am

First of all, Title 1 DOES give more money to not so well off schools. Second of all, they get a disproportionate share of reduced and free lunches.

I am as a big a socialist as they come, but if anything, not so well off schools are already getting more than their fair share. The problem is NOT the money, it’s the lack of parental involvement. And PLEASE don’t tell me that poor schools have more working parents that don’t have time to volunteer. I call complete BS on that.

In my East Cobb school, PLENTY of working moms give their time to our school. They are room reps, they work on weekends to improve our grounds, they volunteer behind the scenes to write grants, they grade Sunshine Math and Sunshine Science papers on weekends and evenings. And lots and lots more.

It’s all about valuing your child’s education and not about how much money you can send in.

oldtimer

December 1st, 2010
7:54 am

You cannot make things equal by just giving money! Those parents that give more to the schools also pay MUCH higher tax rates. Several people said the same thing I feel. Lee did it well. We need to teach people that life may not be fair, but by your own hard work and persisitance YOU can have a better chance. Number one thing we need to teach people is to quit having babies they cannot afford. Parents can voluteer in many different ways…even do something at home while you watch TV. Keep in mind..the government can only take money from people till there is no more money to take.

East Cobb Parent

December 1st, 2010
8:09 am

When my children attended public school it seemed I was constantly asked for donations. Here is a list of the normal donations outside of fundraisers.
Classroom supplies throughout the year,
Donations for teacher gift prior to Winter Break (this would become a competition to see which class raised the most for their teacher)
Donations for custodian gift prior to Winter Break
Donations for teacher gift for EOY
Donations for teacher door prizes for EOY luncheon
Food for all early release days (this is for the teachers)
On the fund-raising front there were silent auctions, Sally Foster, Foundation, Relay for Life, Fall Festival, Raffles and Boosterthon

In five years, the money raised, outside of Relay for Life, went for playground equipment several times, sod that died each year, outside classrooms, two smartboards (I’m not sure they were ever used for anything other than a coat rack) and computers.

Catlady and others, is this typical from your schools? And do you think this gives the East Cobb Students an unfair advantage over poorer students?

I have never been asked for money for classroom or teacher gifts for my daughter’s private school. I wonder if this has anything to do with her starting in 7th grade. I would like to point out that other than a Publix card, there are no fundraisers at her school. I would also add we are required to provide a computer for her use. In theory you could go to the library to type papers and such, since they do not carry the computers to school.

My sister teaches in Leon County in Florida, her students do very well on the FCAT and ITBS. They have one fundraiser a year and teacher gifts over $5.00 are discouraged. My sister said it is an attempt to have all the schools on the same playing level.

Randy

December 1st, 2010
8:12 am

So what you are trying to decide in your own mind is this, Do I want to punish the children of adults who made the right choices in life. Plain and simple.

Yeah that is the correct thing to do, why not try this, have some of those parents in those districts start stealing money from the drug dealers in their neighborhoods and use that money to help their children. After all they are the ones allowing this crap to happen right out in the open and then refuse to help the police put them away. Why not use some stinking common sense approaches?

Maureen Downey

December 1st, 2010
8:22 am

@Oldtimer, I have no problem with the message that life is not fair, but do we have to start with 5-year-olds? I think life teaches kids early enough that they may not have won the parent lottery and that their lives are noticeably more hectic and more stressful than peers born to more affluent households.
To the person who thinks that poor families tolerate crime, I covered enough crime beats in my career to tell you that most people do not want crime in their back yards. Nor do they tolerate it.
If you recall, young parents with two kids in east Atlanta had their home firebombed when they tried to move drug dealers from their corner. There are hardworking low-income families in every poor neighborhood and they do what they can within reason to stop crime, but their lives and those of their children may be on the line if they push too openly.
Maureen

Suavez

December 1st, 2010
8:24 am

Schools should be funded strictly on enrollment, with a set amount of dollars per pupil. That is the only equitable way to do it.

Maureen Downey

December 1st, 2010
8:25 am

@ABC, I would agree that there are many working parents who make time for school volunteering, but that is also because their jobs allow them the flexibility to come in a few hours late or dash out for a few hours in the afternoon. That is not the case for parents working hourly jobs that offer no flexibility, including cashiers, waitresses, hotel clerks etc. In my neighborhood, there are many working parents who now work at home because they are in the information technology business.
Maureen

DeKalb Educated

December 1st, 2010
8:27 am

In DeKalb County, there may have been a bias to funding schools in South DeKalb over North DeKalb due to the bias of the board members. There was (may still be) a misconception that Lakeside had everything. Many schools like Tucker and Lakeside were the last to be renovated. These schools were over 40 years old with inadequate computer and science labs, band/chorus rooms, limited athletic fields. The parents of the community rallied to raise money and provide sweat equity for the students. It was hard for us to attend band or orchestra competitions in the southern end of the county and see their facilities. Lakeside has huge Hispanice population – it is not all lily white children. Still, you see parents of all races and background coming to fundraisers, showing up for work days, attending PTA meetings because it is part of the culture of the school. It is a tradition. I once taught in rural high school in SC. It was the only high school in the county. From mill workers to migrant farm labor to store owners to mill owners – people were involved. Their lives centered around the high school. It is not about income – it is about involvement. The parents at SW DEKALB had a fund raiser for their band where the raffled off a car donated by a parent. The band is great. Parents will find the time and the funds for things they care about in their lives. There has been a bias on the School Board for years towards Lakeside and other northern county schools. Now, that the election has taken place and one of the most biased members removed, there may be some balancing of funds for all the schools.

Mike Hassinger

December 1st, 2010
8:27 am

@Sick of Republicans: What an idiotic comment. Nancy Jester’s DISTRICT includes the “more affluent neighborhoods,” and candidates campaign in the districts they seek to represent. Duh.

The “best education possible” begins with parents being actively involved in their children’s educations and schools, and has very little to do with money.

iRun

December 1st, 2010
8:30 am

Speaking as a parent in an affluent school district where PTA involvement is stellar (hey, we paid for Promethean Boards in EVERY classroom of a public elementary school, plus the playground, and the teachers get grants for special programs they want to implement), I don’t mind sharing the wealth to poorer schools.

There are poorer schools south of me that I’d prefer the money to go to.. Kind of like helping my nearest neighbor. See, thing is, because the neighborhood to the south is next to my neighborhood it’s transitioning fast. Because home prices are a little bit more affordable so young couples with babies are moving there. So, the school for that neighborhood has been transitioning as these parents put their kids, more and more, into the public school. I’d love to help them out. Then, in 10 years or so when THEY are where WE are now, they can do the same for the up and coming neighborhood schools close to them.

Maybe that’s a bit pie in the sky. But I like the idea.

East Cobb Parent

December 1st, 2010
8:33 am

Maureen, I have to disagree with you. I know quite a few hourly workers that try arrange/request hours to attend their children’s school for one thing or the other. Cashiers, waitresses and hotel clerks usually have hours that start either well before or after the start of school thus allowing time, if the parent is willing, to work with the school. Personally, if the parent stresses education at home, it has a positive impact on the student. That can be done whether or not the parent ever steps into the school to help the classroom or fundraise.

An American Patriot

December 1st, 2010
8:37 am

Hey, great idea coming…….Avondale Parents, you live in the City of Avondale…why don’t you petition the DCSS to break away from the main body and form your own AVCSS amd then you can take all the ad valorem taxes for schools in the Avondale District and use it for just the schools in that district. I bet your schools effectiveness would improve a hundred fold in a short time. You’re a city in DeKalb County just like Decatur is a city in DeKalb County :) How ’bout it Dunwoody, can’t you do the same? How ’bout it Chamblee, can’t you do the same? How ’bout it Tucker, can’t you do the same? Although I’m not sure, even if Stone Mountain did this that it would even work. Wisen up people, the DeKalb County School System is right on the edge, and in danger of falling off the cliff. Whatta gonna do…….just sit there and let it self destruct…..all you parents who care, get “Pro Active”…..do something before our county is in ruins because of the dysfunctional school system run by an equally dysfunctional Board of Education.

Randy

December 1st, 2010
8:38 am

Maureen Downey

Guess what if it was me who turned in drug dealers and my house got fire bombed. First step contact relatives in another state and arrange for my children to stay with them for a while. Second step purchase weapons. third step clean up my neighborhood. It’s when people DO NOTHING because our sorry ass criminal justice system won’t do it’s job that the schools and neighborhoods decline. It is time for American citizens to do what we pay our elected officials to do since they choose not to do it. But wait ……………..they as parents are to freaking busy buying up and using this crack. I would rather spend the rest of my days in jail knowing I tried to at least give my kid the opportunity then to send them off to school each day not knowing if they are going to come home alive.

jj

December 1st, 2010
8:42 am

If I remember my mumbers correctly didn’t Cobb County send over $60mm to the state to be used by other school districts around the state. That means every man woman and child in Cobb county has sent $84 dollars to other districts. So the quesiton really is, do we want to send more? Down state districts are generally the benefactors of these funds as they do not have the population density to generate the dollars. However, if they taxed productive farmland at even close to it’s actual value they would have more than enough funding. So aren’t the tax policies just one more equalizer?

Dekalbite

December 1st, 2010
8:50 am

Title1 funds are to “level the playing field between students in affluent schools and students in low income schools.

DCSS receives around $40,000,000 in Title 1 funds.

Below are some examples of how Title 1 funds in DeKalb County are spent in DeKalb County:
1. Expensive non-teaching positions:
- $9,000,000 in salary and benefits for 90 Instructional coaches (many of them on the “friends and family” plan)
- $2,000,000+ for Central Office staff. All of the staff on this DCSS web page are paid out of Title 1 funds:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/instruction/improvement/contacts.html
(Please, go to the State Salary and Travel audit page to verify their salaries: http://www.open.georgia.gov/)
- $4,500,000 for Parent Resource Center personnel (one of the parent centers is run by BOE member Zepora Roberts’ daughter – all are non-teachers and most do not even hold a certificate)

2. Costly and ineffective scripted learning programs:
- $8,000,000 a year on America’s Choice
- $1,400,000 a year on Springboard

High Schools That Work and other programs that have now been abandoned were funded by Title 1 funds as well.

The infamous $400,000 “Hollywood Conference” which sent 140 mainly non-teaching personnel to Hollywood for a conference last year was paid with Title 1 funds.

Numerous high priced consultants are paid with Title 1 funds.

Whenever the past and present superintendent encounters any resistance to a new non-teaching position or a new program, they say it doesn’t cost the county – it’s funded by Title 1.

Title 1 funds are critical to leveling the playing field for children in the poorest areas. The bulk of Title 1 funding decisions need to be made at the schoolhouse by principals and teachers. The Central Office should provide a system of checks and balances. Witness the books written and published by DCSS administrators and bought by Title 1 funds – although maybe that’s not a good analogy since the Central Office let that slip through the cracks and one of the “writers” was an Area Superintendent. Hopefully, the Internal Auditor they finally hired will help.

There are schools that are not classified as Title 1 that cannot afford what more affluent schools can, but their achievement level is nowhere as low as the Title 1 schools.

Maureen Downey

December 1st, 2010
9:03 am

To all, I finally found this 1997 story that relates to this issue.
It is about Public School 41, which is in a wealthy area of Greenwich Village in New York. I am sharing it as I think the comments are relevant to our discussion here.

In a nutshell, PS 41 parents contributed $46,000 to pay the salary of a laid-off teacher. But then-New York City School Chancellor Rudy Crew said parent groups can’t fund teachers’ jobs, maintaining that such funding would give affluent neighborhoods an unfair advantage over poorer neighborhoods where parents cannot afford to raise such large sums.

Parents had raised the money after the teacher’s position was eliminated. Her 26 students were split up among the remaining four fourth grades, creating four classes of 32 students each, which was the average size for a fourth-grade class in that district at that time.

Here is the story from Education World

Parents, upset about the transfer of the popular teacher, raised $46,000 to pay Zangara’s salary and benefits in four days.

In New York City, parent groups are allowed to raise money to help pay for part-time teachers and for some school supplies. As a matter of fact, parents at PS 41 had in the past used money they raised to purchase school supplies and to pay for a track coach.

But then Chancellor Crew ordered Alvarado to reinstate Zangara to her job at PS 41. Zangara would be paid out of the district’s budget, not with money raised by the parents. Alvarado had exceeded his authority in giving tentative approval to the parent group to raise the funds, said Crew.

“The parents of PS 41 acted in good faith on behalf of their children based on information provided by the school district,” said Crew. “I am not willing to penalize them because of the advice they received.”

But, Crew added, the moratorium on parents paying teachers’ salaries stands. The issue of parent associations paying teacher salaries “steps across the line of equity so critical to or system as well as individual schools,” Crew said.

“This issue is…not isolated to his school,” said Neal Rosenberg, the lawyer who represented the parents. “If you want to keep the middle class in public schools, you must give them a chance to improve the school. You can’t welcome the middle class into public schools with open arms and then tie their hands behind their backs.”

“It was more of a victory than we anticipated,” added Rosenberg. “The parents received the result they wanted at no cost to themselves.”

Crew said that he and the Board must discuss formulating a policy which will “allow parents to make valuable contributions to their schools within appropriate limits.” The board must adopt a policy that ensures “this practice does not adversely affect the opportunity for equity in the teaching of core curriculum throughout the New York City public schools.”

“It’s a tremendously emotional issue,” said Gary Griffin, professor of education at Teachers College in Manhattan. “How can it be appropriate that kids in certain schools have better benefits from the system, even though it comes from the parents’ pockets?”

Meanwhile, Crew’s move upset many District 2 officials. “That school gets a classroom ratio of one to 27 in the fourth grade. Every other school in the district gets one to 32,” a district spokesman complained.

East Cobb Mom

December 1st, 2010
9:07 am

No, absolutely not. Reduced and free lunches and Title 1 funding are two examples mentioned that are already in place to help level the playing field. More affluent homeowners pay more in property taxes to receive the same dollar amount per child educated as low income families. Some families pay high property taxes and may not even send their children to private school. There comes a point when punishing the successful to make things “more fair” does not bring up the bottom, it just brings everyone down.

Shar

December 1st, 2010
9:16 am

My sister has kids in the Los Angeles Unified system, and there the School Board decreed that all parent financial contributions have to be remitted to the central office for “equal” disbursement over the entire system. Parents cannot purchase items directly for their neighborhood school, but must send the funds to the LA Unified procurement office so that only “approved” items are utilized by the schools. As a consequence, parent contributions in money and fundraising for specific needs such as playground equipment has all but disappeared. Parental involvement has become almost completely restricted to volunteering.

When I was president of the Morningside PTA, I was told flat out by a very high official in Beverly Hall’s administration that ANY requests we might make regarding improvements, repairs or teacher training would be disregarded because we were a “white school” and “had everything”. In truth, we were the most overcrowded elementary school in APS, had – and still have – a very sizeable population of minority, transient and poor children, and are far under the state guidelines for square footage per pupil. The fact that Morningside has a very active parent base legitimized institutional retribution by APS, and we had to fight for the most basic repairs. The great majority of “extras” were paid for by the parents.

Morningside is a member of CINS – the Council for Intown Neighborhoods and Schools – as are all schools in the Grady cluster. Parents who are active in the PTA are encouraged to participate in CINS, which raises funds for needs within the cluster as well as being an advocate for the CINS schools. Morningside parents, including myself, tutored at other CINS schools, raised money, donated items, shared teacher subsidies, etc., all with an eye toward supporting student success so that when all these students blended at Grady there would be a smoother transition and more evenly-prepared classrooms. NAPPS does the same thing for the North Atlanta cluster.

The above posters are correct: Title 1 money is provided to augment the basic allotment for poor schools, both to address family shortfalls and to counterbalance the additional parent contributions enjoyed by more affluent schools. Discretionary incremental spending is also directed to Title 1 schools by APS, as are most corporate donations. Taxpayers in the affluent neighborhoods already pay far more in school taxes than they get back in educational improvements. That is a given in urban living, and those who object don’t live within the APS district. Financial contributions to individual schools are in fact voluntary taxation; they benefit all the children in the school and for the most part are not deducted from income tax returns.

Contributions of time are just as crucial as those of money. My kids saw me in the school at least once a week. I was room parent, class trip monitor, proctor, tutor. I graded papers at night and went in late to run the copier for teachers who didn’t have time to do it themselves. I arranged for CPR training (that APS refused to fund for our school) for cafeteria workers and teachers, found sources for classroom materials and helped write grant applications. Many, if not most, of these kinds of things were time-flexible and could be accomodated within the parameters of a job.

Denying parents the opportunity to enhance their children’s schools will only depress involvement, as my sister’s experience has shown. Title 1 schools already hold a significant financial advantage over those that do not qualify for such funding, and they are subsidized by the tax dollars of the more affluent areas as well. Organizations such as CINS provide direct parent support for struggling schools. At some point, excuses are no longer believable. Parents of school age children, regardless of socioeconomic background, can and should be in the schools demonstrating the importance of education to their children and supporting the school in whatever way possible. Punishing schools with high parental involvement by reducing their funding will not only hurt their own effort but will never make up for parental disregard in the receiving schools.

A very bad idea.

Sick of Republicans

December 1st, 2010
9:21 am

Hey Dunwoody Mom – have you ever volunteered in a Title I school? If not then get the facts before you speak. I volunteered in a Title I school for five years; parent involvement got better each year. We had fund raisers to get the necessary things as well as playground equipment, etc. Many of our parents put their heart and souls into those fundraisers. So when you get out of your safe little space, try volunteering in a Title I school and you will find out you don’t know as much as you think you do. That’s the problem with people in the affluent neighborhoods, they don’t realize just how hard and how much effort alot of people from the less affluent neighborhoods are involved with their kids and their schools. And that’s the concern and the only concern I have with District 1’s new School Board member because during her campaign all you read about was her fundraisers, etc. in Dunwoody. I will sit back and see and listen and watch to see if this changes now that she is elected.

Private School Guy – I agree with you on most of what you are saying.

V for Vendetta

December 1st, 2010
9:24 am

We often talk about the good things in education, lament the decisions that negatively impact the children, and discuss the material being covered in schools . . .

. . . but when the talk shifts to how schools are funded, we suddenly see the problem inherent in the bigger picture. This is why socialism doesn’t work, but schools are an entirely different animal in many people’s minds because they deal with children. I’ll be the first to admit that the issue of children vexes me to no end. I have thought about it quite often and blogged about it nearly as much right here. However, the bottom line is that children do and will always suffer as a result of their parents’ mistakes. There is nothing–I repeat, NOTHING–we can do as an individual or society to change that.

So what’s the answer?

Do we punish the successful for being successful? That’s the current ideology being promoted in this country–by Democrat and Republican alike. The Tea Partiers claim to be for individual rights and small government, but the government has been growing for one hundred years regardless of who was in power. (The great Republican messiah, Ronald Reagan, grew the size of the government by leaps and bounds.)

In a society of freedom, there will always be haves and have nots. That’s the plain, simple, and ugly truth. Sure, many of you might say that’s easy for me to say; I’ve never had to struggle to eat, struggle to pay for housing, struggle to pay for clothes.

But my mother did. And my father was not too well off himself. They put themselves through college. My mother had to rearrange the same clothes in different combos so people wouldn’t realize they were the same four or five outfits. She hoped they didn’t smell when she couldn’t wash them. She shared articles of clothing with her sister, and they pooled their money to pay for a tiny place to live. They both graduated with honors from Florida State. My mother became a gifted teacher. My aunt became a research scientist at the CDC.

No one gave them anything.

And they didn’t ask for anything.

Dekalbite@Maureen

December 1st, 2010
9:25 am

We don’t have to worry about that in DeDkalb County. Witness this comment on the redistricting survey DCSS has in the public forum:

“”I’m very involved in the school, as are many of the parents at Fernbank. Parent involvement is one of the things that makes Fernbank very special. We pay for our Art and Science teacher’s salaries.”

I do not think that taking away funds from affluent schools is a good idea though. We already do that in the form of higher property taxes.

Shar

December 1st, 2010
9:31 am

I also happen to be a graduate of PS 41, where my mother was PTA president (her example no doubt influenced me to participate in that way.) PS 41 is not a particularly affluent school; however, it encompasses the NYU campus, and thus has lots and lots of parents who are not well paid but are strongly committed to education sending their children there and volunteering. Consequently, it has long been one of Manhattan’s better-performing elementary schools, regularly out-performing schools on the Upper East Side where the fantastically rich live.

Cherokee School Mom

December 1st, 2010
9:32 am

My children attend a Cherokee county elementary school with a very active PTA. In the last two years, the PTA has raised money to replace playground equipment and fund a reading resource room. Parent volunteers are helping daily to fill the gaps caused by the lost librarian, para-pro and teacher positions. The PTA provides a gift card to the teachers for school supplies each year as well. This isn’t bragging but serves to demonstrate how parents are involved and willing to help to improve the school day for our kids. I don’t think the community would welcome sharing dollars with another school since, as another reader noted, our tax dollars are already shared across the state and county. A good school with a proven record is a considerations made when moving into a new home. If one can’t send kids to private school or chooses to stay in public school then the PTA dollars should stay local. After all the government does not have a record for sustainable improvement due to with increased spending.

ABC

December 1st, 2010
9:41 am

Maureen: that’s not true about job flexibility. If you are a waitress, bartender, hostess your work hours usually start after school is over, so there’s plenty of time to volunteer during work hours. Other hourly workers have even more flexibility during school hours. But if it’s not during school hours, there’s time in other parts of the day. The 9-5 parents that I know that volunteer in our school do so on WEEKENDS and EVENINGS. They do NOT necessarily take time off work to volunteer.

If the will is not there, nothing gets done.

Dunwoody Mom

December 1st, 2010
9:44 am

@SickofRepublicans – I have no idea what your rant is about. It is a given that Title 1 funds are not being used to their biggest advantage in DCSS.

AlreadySheared

December 1st, 2010
9:51 am

“Should parent affluence influence how schools are funded?”
Maureen’s answer is evident in the phrasing of her question.

I’ll ask the exact same question in a different way:
“Should school districts allow parents to voluntarily contribute additional money to the schools their children attend?”

A “No” answer to my question clearly reveals the heavy, overbearing hand of a government whose bureaucrats have confused their STEWARDSHIP of our children’s education with OWNERSHIP.

What's best for kids?

December 1st, 2010
9:58 am

Ensuring equity will certainly ensure a decline in donations and parental involvement for all schools.

Maureen Downey

December 1st, 2010
10:03 am

@Already Sheared, But the question isn’t that simple. It is not a matter of whether parents should contribute; it is how much can schools accept and what can it be used for within the schools.
And this is not just a district-level quandary. I have seen some heated exchanges within schools over what parents in Ms. Jones’ class are willing to pay for as opposed to parents in Ms. Smith’s class.
And let me give you one example: In one particular year, a class had not only super involved parents willing to spend money, but super creative parents who created “events” for the students. The class had a Halloween party that rivaled a professional haunted house. Most other classes just had simple afternoon events where kids donned costumes and ate cupcakes with spiders on them.
But this class had parents dressed in incredible costumes, a smoke machine, a vat with dried ice tended by a parent in full witch regalia. There was scary music. There was a “make a mummy” costume event. It was beyond any class party that I had ever seen.
The children in the other classes were despondent to miss out on that party, and it led to a debate about how far classroom parties could go simply in an effort to keep the peace.
Anyone who does not think that is problematic ought to consider the consequences in their workplace if one department throws an elaborate holiday party one afternoon with a full catered meal and other departments are confined to Cokes, chips and Brownie bites.
Maureen

AlreadySheared

December 1st, 2010
10:19 am

@Maureen

I double checked – your question was about “school funding”.

Overly elaborate classroom parties and disparities in parental involvement are different questions, yes?

Maureen Downey

December 1st, 2010
10:29 am

AlreadySheared, I think the big question is funding and whether a school population’s ability to raise funds should be considered in any way. (By the way, my personal feeling is that it should not because it seems near impossible to quantify year to year and it is a moving target. Schools can have streaks where they have parents who easily write checks for $100 for whatever is needed and then a period where hardly anyone even sells any Sally Foster.)
My only point was that the disparity in funding is not simply an issue at the district, but within schools. I was trying to make the point that it is understandable why this is a contentious issue at the district level so it also can be at the school level.
Maureen

col

December 1st, 2010
10:31 am

There are many schools in the middle, where raising 10 or 15 thousand each year is a good year. They aren’t Title 1 though and they aren’t affluent.

What happens to them?

Really amazed

December 1st, 2010
10:36 am

So next comes Susie must split her A with Johnny who received an F so they both can receive a C on report card to make it far for Johnny who didn’t care to study harder. This way the student that work harder for there grades can share with the ones that don’t give a d—! This will encourage little Johnny even less to try harder. Some thing as what is going to start happening with the Hope Scholarship. Take away from higher income families to give it to lower income families. We have already turned into a socialize nation. Heathcare, housing, etc. Let’s keep rewarding less work and poor behavior. I hear all the time that Mr, and Ms. don’t have enough time to volunteer or enough money to give. I have a friend who works her butt off, full-time and still manages to be the PTA pres. on the Governing board. Their is always time for some kind of volunteer work for working parents. Night time phone calls or emails to see if parents received the last invite to an event even. $10 that they don’t have, however can spend to get their daughter’s nails done or on lottery tickets,cig etc. Give me a break!!!

north fulton pta mom

December 1st, 2010
10:46 am

I agree with Irun 8;30 a.m.
However, while I do not mind if the state or the school board throws some extra money at our South Fulton schools, I would hate to see factoring in parental involvement/fund-raising become an official consideration in the budget process. Before you know it, our PTA funds would be required for the essentials as bureaucrats backed more and more funds out of North Fulton’s share of education/tax dollars..

ABC

December 1st, 2010
10:50 am

Really amazed: you hit the nail on the head.

Shar

December 1st, 2010
10:52 am

Your question revolves around “whether a school population’s ability to raise funds should be considered in any way” when determining allocation of tax dollars. The presumed ABILITY to raise incremental funds has little to do with the actual amount that may or may not be raised, but taking away the school’s allotment in effect MANDATES that parents with children in those schools pay extra just to have the same level of funding as the more “favored” schools. This is patently unfair, and would lead to gross misuse within a year of instituting such a policy.

Teacher Reader

December 1st, 2010
10:55 am

@ Maureen I constantly tell my 2 year old that life isn’t fair. So I would agree with Old Timer and start the kids understanding this at a young age. Life isn’t fair. There will always be someone who has something that you don’t, and you need to be thankful what you do have.

Even parents who are waitresses and bartenders and who get punished for taking days off can volunteer at night or during their free time. Parents need to put forth more effort if they want more for their kids. They can’t expect the government to give them everything.

What's really going on

December 1st, 2010
11:29 am

I do not think affluence should factor into school funding for some (not all) of the same reasons that have come up several times here.

The only thing I will add is that for the same reason that some schools receive Title 1 funds as a result of the socioeconomics of their school population, there’s another pot of money for that same target population that can be won via grants and such of private philanthropic organizations who seek to support education of groups that may be underrepresented in one area or another.

If anything, if I were a principal of a Title 1 school, and i do not know if it’s a legal use of title 1 funds, i’d use some portion of the Title 1 funds to hire a full-time (or maybe even part time) grant writer who actively seeks out and submits grants on behalf of the school. Final point on affluent parents raising large sums of money for schools is that i do think that school district would be justified in trying to set some guidelines or limits on the types of things that can be purchased that could ultimately make the ongoing costs maintenance of a particular purchase the responsibility of the larger school district. For example, let’s say that a school raises enough funds to in theory build and pay for a multi million dollar sports complex— the funds may be there and that school community may be all for it, but what happens if the school demographic changes and it is not able to sustain costs for upkeep and ongoing maintenance? I can almost guarantee you that 10yrs later (after the PTA has turned over, and 2 new principals have been at the helm) that the general school community will not know or care who made the purchase; but if it came down to little Johnny or Susie practicing on a field or in a facility that is unsafe, (for example) that the parents of the students that are currently in the school will probably look to the local school district to foot the bill or at least aid in the costs to address the facility concerns. That, to me, would be problematic and unfair to anyone that pays taxes in that district to be required to have their tax dollars go to support something that was done outside the realm/control of the local district staff and elected officials. District leaders and school principals should encourage parental involvement and financial support if parents are willing and able, but they also should consider establishment of written procedures and guidelines to deal with schools that may want to make large purchases.

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

December 1st, 2010
12:02 pm

@Shar–there are a great many parents in the neighborhood we share who would do well to closely read your comments here, particularly the one about the overt hostility you encountered from APS employees. The amount of “you’re white, you’re affluent, why should we do anything for you” junk we took from APS employees while trying to secure accommodations for our autistic child was jaw-dropping.

As to your other point–getting Central Office to approve stuff– we knew that was a nonstarter, so we simply purchased or made cabinets, furniture, fixtures, computer monitors and appliances for our son’s classrooms at MES and then at SPARK without asking anyone’s permission and installed them with the help of teachers who had enough sense to say yes to our help. I encourage other parents to freely disregard any “rules” about making improvements to your school if you encounter irrational resistance of the type Shar mentioned.

These schools don’t belong to APS, they belong to us. We pay for APS to administer the schools but ultimately we, the parents, can change ANYTHING that’s not working, if we want to badly enough.

What's really going on

December 1st, 2010
12:37 pm

@Springdale Park Elementary parent– I agree completely with your statement “These schools don’t belong to (any school district), they belong to us. We pay for (ay school district) to administer the schools but ultimately we, the parents, can change ANYTHING that’s not working, if we want to badly enough.”

I wonder if a more explicit was to assert this point by individual schools isn’t to simply go the route of becomg a conversion charter. Given the high level of parent involvement at your school, did this ever come up as a way for you all to gain a little more autonomy at the school level?

Chrome Gouda

December 1st, 2010
12:39 pm

“So next comes Susie must split her A with Johnny who received an F so they both can receive a C on report card to make it far for Johnny who didn’t care to study harder.”

Wow- the absence of logic in this statement is overwhelming.