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Kyle Spencer, freelance education reporter and New York Times contributor, discusses parents digging deeper into their pockets to relieve tight public school budgets.
From what I understand... this is life in California (eg. Palo Alto). Even administrators have fund raising targets. Wealthy school districts get "wealthier" and the others are left to figure it out for themselves..Here in Westchester we fundraise through PTO/PTA, Boosters for Arts and Sports and a foundation for everything .. field trip contributions, scholarships, equipment, assemblies you name it, a sports team ... that was originally cut from our budget. You have to look at the funds but also if the donation is sustainable and what that does to a particular program. Our BOE is pretty careful to look at the situation with each donation and not start a program that does not have a sustainable funding stream.
Ed - the UFT does NOT care about children, I agree, but teachers should not have to take a paycut to prove "they care." They are, as a group - underpaid for what they do.
There is more than enough money spent in public education for ALL kids to have a DECENT public education but thanks to lack of competition, waste, fraud, and yes - UFT rules, it does not happen.
The problem with allowing PTA's to pay for things like teaching assistants is - it causes a defacto private school system within a public one, something common in 3rd world countries.
As a result, why would politically active, middle and upper-class parents in a good school district like PS321, feel the need to advocate for system wide change if their needs for their specific shcool are met via PTA fud-raising?
Ellen makes a good point. Some data on the impact of PTA fundraising on each student (in $'s) in schools with the top PTA fundraisers in comparison with the impact of Title 1 money on each student (in $'s) would be helpful.
There needs to be real accountability for the money spent on education in NYC.
Where is the comptroller?
Eliminate public mistrust in education. Full disclosure on where money is spent for "education".
If the UFT really cares about children, then they would gladly take a modest pay cut and those freed up monies would go to programs for their students.
So who do teachers REALLY care for?
Please put this in context and give us some real data about funding disparities. Lower income schools get title 1 monies (which can be quite a bit) and also receive grants far more easily (when the administration pursues them). Does this funding make up for these other sources of income. Everytime I hear you report on this, you do not give real data. Please do some real reporting here.
I am a parent at PS 334 Anderson. Yes, Anderson has a parental "ask" of a donation to the school of $1300 (this year's ask). But to set the record straight, parents are not pressured to make a $1300 donation. They are asked to contribute whatever they can afford. There is no individual pressure other than periodic reminders to make a donation. Anderson's class size is close to 30 kids/class. A good chunk of the money parents raise go to paying for a 2nd teacher in the class in most elementary school classes. Funds also pay for our music program and technology. Yes, Anderson's parents raise a lot for our school and yes the system is not fair to schools whose school and parent body is not wealthy. In my opinion this process that DOE allows is just as unfair as the Charter schools that DOE actively supports in public schools in less wealthy neighborhoods which much more resources (either through DOE or through the private company running the Charter school) than nonCharter schools which are often in the same building. Until DOE makes the ENTIRE system equitable, they are setting up the precedent for every school to fend for itself which is totally wrong. That being said, I would support a DOE mandate that requires 10% of all funding raised by NYC PTA's to go into a privately administered transparent fund (perhaps administered by a foundation like NY Foundation) which less wealthy schools can apply for funding from through some sort of application process to support additional educational/recreational/artistic resources that they may need.
For the school year 2012–13, the Department of Education’s total budget is $24.4 billion, including $4.7 billion to pay pensions and interest on Capital Plan debt. It seems impossible that they can't find a few hundred million dollars to fund any and every program needed or wanted. If “it takes a village” how about we cut all administrative and teaching salaries, benefits and pensions by 1%? That would raise about $150,000,000 per year - for poor kids. Not bad. In fact we should cut those areas by 10% and give most of the money back to the oppressed middle and upper-middle classes who are suffering under a crazy tax burden in NYC & NYS. The teacher's union in NYC is like the old time mafia, shaking down the pols for protection money, and yet Jane and Johnny still can't read, write or do math. What are they being paid for? Education in most large Democrat urban areas is a racket that the poor minorities have been suffering from for generations.
As a person running a non-profit partnership arts program in an underserved school, the issues of lack of funding for the level of education - ie' restoring educational programs it's so complicated. I do not resent or begrudge parents wanting to give their children the best possible opportunities and education by adding funding to the public school through hiring teachers or getting additional supplies. What is distressing and striking is that the funding for non-profit partnerships in schools where there is no financial resource with a pta, it shows the incredibly need for equality of education. So those of us working in poorer schools are also thinking out of the box- how can we fund programs- even if it's not for our own children but someone else's children. Investment in minds and human beings is key for me. Even if it's not my own children.
One really important thing that hasn't been mentioned throughout this discussion is the Alliance for Quality Education lawsuit. AQE *won* the suit, which required that public funds be distributed *statewide* according to need. The public master appointed by the court came up with a formula, which the legislature and governors (several) have ignored. I'm not a lawyer, but I believe that legally the special master could require various public officials to be hauled into court for not carrying out this determination. The point of the suit was to equalize the funding according to local needs, costs, and a whole range of other issues throughout the state. Hopefully (a long shot, I know) this would mitigate the need for individual, localized fundraising--or at the very least, require that poorer schools are treated (and the funds overseen; I agree that funds are often misused) as richer ones are.
@RJ from prospect hts
Irresponsible is the right word. A MAJOR portion (though not exclusively) of the problems in education is parental involvement, interest and responsibility.
Here's an example, last year my son had a girl in his class with rotting teeth and expensive shoes. We work hard to save money on clothing and such so we can afford to take our children to a pediatric dentist and buy health insurance.
We are NOT wealthy, just responsible. We'd love a third child, but the costs for adoption and child rearing are beyond our financial ability.
I listened to your segment on the inequality of eduction and the PTA fund raising and feel even your title for the segment was outrageous "Savage", really? I'm a public school parent and am grateful that our PTA raises money for our school. At this point, we are not enhancing the eduction but paying to keep the eduction levels where they were 5 years ago! Will we ever stop asking the middle class to pay for the inequities in every public system? Why don't we impose a 5% tax on private school eduction to help pay for the disparity in the public school system? When did it become a "savage" act to do all you can, in your own budget, to give your kids the best eduction they can get? I live in a tiny apartment and pay high taxes already just so my children can have a chance at a good public eduction. I think you should save the word "savage" for truly savage acts happening all over the world instead of condemning the middle class for taking care of their children when the system clearly doesn't.
This is a sad cruel joke. Parent giving is not the issue -- in District 15 there are 600 good seats in middle school and 1700 kids. We gave loads of volunteer time (and money) and with the help of the PTA the school built a good elementary school. BUT HE STILL DID NOT GET A MIDDLE SCHOOL SEAT! THIS IS INSANE!
HELP! HELP! HELP!
What's schoolbook NYTimes WNYC doing about it?!
When discussing education we should always spend some time looking at how other states have solved similar problems. This show focused too much on New York and didn't look at solutions from outside the state. For example in Minnesota all state property tax is sent to the state and reallocated based on need.
Was anyone else taken aback when the guest described teachers who are interested in general social issues, such as standing against the misuse of stop and frisk, as ... Bolsheviks?
I was waiting for Brian to gently ask if she really thought of them as Russian revolutionaries....
The NYC School budget includes $1.5 Million of NYC taxpayers monies to fund Junior ROTC military training classes in 18 public high schools. This funding should come from the Pentagon - the US military gets more tax revenue than any other program, including Medicare/Medicaid.
Let's not close down after-school programs or reduce staffing in order to fund Jr. ROTC that Washington could pay for.
There is an inherent democratic right in the concept of public education and this right is constantly contested. The fundraising levels currently achieved by PTA's is compromising this right in my opinion. My issues are this--the disparity increases between 'rich' schools and 'poor' schools-fundraising requires time and resources (and skills)- with fundraising and money comes an increased feeling of power and a sense of entitlement-PTA's are making decisions about the education of all children in terms of programs, enrichment etc. and not always the right decisions.- Principals are a the mercy of many PTA's (and would deny that this is the case)as this is also a popularity issue.- A lot of school time is taken up with the administration of PTA's and parents..an obligation to indulge all and every idea. - PTA involvement is voluntary as it should be but parents interest in their child's education is being misunderstood as an interest in the work of the PTA.- The very issues played out in the larger democratic spaces of our civic life are being played out in one of the last remaining truly public spaces of our civic life-the public school. This is exacerbated in the most 'mixed' schools where a range of voices with different visions and views of the role of education (working class, middle class, immigrant etc.) exist- and guess who are in the PTA?- PTA work and responsibilities and PTA fundraising needs to have some limitations in order to ensure the democratic rights of all in public education (rich and poor).- Cap fundraising power, pool all fundraising and distribute in a needs-based way to all city schools would be a start.Thanks.Aileen
To Sheldon - you've got that right! We've given up on ANY government agency to behave responsibly with our tax dollars.
An organization of PTAs to distribute the funds is an interesting idea, but I'd want a watchdog organization monitoring it.
Smokey - we already do that, and it is a mess. That's why people are taking upon themselves to pay for things in school that the government should be paying for.
1.In FL the tax money for public schools is pooled and distributed throughout a whole county. Parents who came from up North where the money is not shared freaked out, but I thought this was a great idea.2.People who live in the "good," (wealthier) districts are not there purely because they are lucky. The only way all children can go to good schools is if all children finish high school, go to college to study for a lucrative career or go to trade school to be become proficient at a lucrative trade. The first step in that process is to make sure the children show up for school. This is what is not happeneing in poorer areas and money and resources should be put into that - it helps us all when everyone is successful.
jenny from demarest hit it on the nose: parents who can raise millions for a public school district are doing the cheaper/easier thing, ultimately--improving on the lot of their own children being educated on the public dime. if they were willing to pay full bore for tuition ($35K+), they would; even though some can well afford it.
How IS it possible that a public school needs an additional $1M???
Someone one, somewhere...DOE, NYC Govt. etc, is f*g-up BIG!!
In the early 1990's, my son attended P.S. 84 in Manhattan, a school with not many well-to-do parents. Our small PTA worked hard to raise what little money we could. My memory from that time is that we did not get to keep all the money we raised; rather, it went to a larger pool, and we got to keep a percentage of the money we had raised. Am I wrong? If not, when did this practice change?
This entire conversation is ridiculous. Penalizing people for using their private time to raise money for their local schools should not be penalized and have that money sent elsewhere. In large part this is a failure of the state and city by creating schools that need to raise money in the private space to pay for public education. What about municipalities outside of city government? How would this system work in private villages on Long Island? Would the country demand that monies raised in wealthy districts be shared with those of lesser means? How about school districts that are in lower income areas that raise more private funds than those in wealthier communities?
One should consider also how the problem of funding schools by "charity" forces schools to compete for wealthier, better connected families (by offering special programs, etc.) or at least for parents that are potentially well-skilled in fundraising activities. My kid's school is committed to providing good education to kids living in shelters - 70% of its students qualify for school lunch - but that commitment actually works against their economic interest making fundraising that much more difficult. It's a very good school, but it struggles so hard. All this becomes even more difficult when a charter school opens in the neighborhood.
"Irresponsible." That term gets tossed about so readily. "Hard-earned tax dollars"--that one too. Is it irresponsible when there's a family crisis--layoffs, medical emergencies? Is it irresponsible that people who have already been stuck in poor education situations, neighborhoods, job possibilities to also want the basic family love and coherence that wealthier people have? Are the tax dollars by janitors, retail and restaurant workers, nannies, part-time anythings less "hard earned" than those of upper-income people? This black and white distinction has been tossed around so frequently when it comes to funding public goods--transportation, health care--without seeing the harm caused by *all * taxpayers when public goods are distributed badly. If someone is poorly educated, how will the upper incomers benefit? More likely, they will be harmed--the complaints in hiring agencies are rife with comments about poor writing and other basic skills; poor health care sickens others when you walk on the street. Please--at least make some attempt to see all of us as an interdependent community.
Any extra money that alleviates the need for public funding for education Perpetuates a Unfair, Unequal, 3rd World Society of a few very rich and many poor and poorly educated
Park Slope Mom, there is Such a Thing as Equality. We are just too selfish to pursue it
I don't think anyone has addressed the other issue - if you are providing money only to your school, you are operating on a MUCH smaller scale, and if you are an involved parent, you have a LOT more control over how the money gets spent - pouring it into some vast amorphous pool is almost a guarantee that it is going into a void that will be poorly managed, just like those taxes that are supposed to be benefiting our schools.
I'm in a middle class school system in Mount Vernon Ny. All the PTA fundraising are very labor intensive Bake sales, carnivals, holiday special events etc where small amount of money are brought in with no large parent donations expected. This is not a communist country. If the PTA of a school goes the extra mile, why shouldn't they benefit from all this work? Doesn't a communist approach prevent people from working hard?
I think you are talking about a very small percentage of very wealthy schools, which is not representative of reality. I live in an I/J (affluent) district which has one of the lowest per pupil spending averages in the state, although we get virtually no funds from the state. The PTA never pressures parents, and the money that is collected helps keep the district budget increases lower and allows seniors to stay in town. Parents also pay fees on everything, from class trips to sports. We also advocate for fair funding throughout the state. Going after PTAs will not fix the problem of inequality in education.
The emphasis of this segment is monetary donations. How about other kinds of parental contributions? Parents in better off neighborhoods tend to be better educated, and often volunteer their time and come to classes to enrich the children's education. Should this type of "donation" also be shared?
Some affluent parents have created public schools that have many of the advantages of private schools. They create a private school for their children that could be much less expensive than an actual privated school.This situation is unjust. It is also unjust that the city of New YOrk cannot provide equal opportunities to all students. TItle 1 is not the answer. Our children require more support.
This is DIY education. When will we grow up and get responsible and support good schools through taxes - the only fair way to do it.
PTAs should spend their money to buy everyone Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities. The PTA topic seems to bypass the base problem of schools being funded largely by local property taxes and the fact that no one sees the advantage to middle class and wealthy kids by everyone getting a fair shot.
We have the opposite problem. I live in Ardsley NY and WISH our PTA would ask for more from us. Our schools are facing a significant budget crisis but the district and schools refuse to impose on the parents for some unexplainable reason. Parents have volunteerd to help yet they won't ask or take. I would GLADLY give $1000 to improve my son's failing education and if it could reduce his class size from the appalling 26 that it is at currently at the elementary level.
I think a form of gerrymandering is the solution. In our district, new development gets put into the "good school" catchment area.
The DOE should reevaluate the catchment areas each year to ensure some sort of economic parity of families. I know too that some poorer schools do not have the skills/are not comfortable organizing PTA, so training is important.
Finally, the DOE needs to enforce the catchment areas. Many people make up their addresses.
I don't see giving $1000- $5000 as a bargain as aposed to private school. As a middle class parent, I may be able to afford that amount but am far from able to afford $38,000 per child per year!
I think PTA's in wealthy public school districts should voluntarily give a percentage of funds collected to lower income school systems, perhaps by "adopting" a school.
the guy entering kindergarten is completely wrong. PTA cannot pay for core teachers. Principals and PTA have to follow the B of E rules to the letter, or the the Board comes in and not only confiscates all the PTA money, but will force the school into following all Board educational guidelines and teaching techniques the same as if they were an underperforming school.
Isn't this issue exactly what taxation is supposed to fix? America, this is ridiculous. No more private schools, charter schools; if you want your child to get a better education, and wan to pay more, consider that paying for other children in other parts of the state or city benefits your child's education because they will ultimately meet in college, graduate school and--here's the big surprise--society!
I absolutely do not agree with your guest. As unfortunate as it is that some districts do not have the ability to supplement the budget for the schools, I do not believe in punishing those who do. The first thing is the middle class will run not walk to the nearest private school, completely depleting any balance in the school system and ending public schools altogether (maybe extreme, but)Secondly, my niece attends a school where the parents are extremely active in fund raising. She benefits, but so do all the children of parents who do not have the time or money to participate. So the super's children are getting the same education as a well known comedian, or an editor of Vogue.
In my own household (I live in a wealthier neighborhood close to Newark), we make an effort to match our giving to our elementary school with DonorsChoose for a Newark classroom. I let my child pick what class/subject to donate to, so that she can feel a part of the process as well.
this goes to the heart of what the republican party, especially the tea party that stresses no taxation or sharing of funds to support underpriveledged communities. In this case it sounds sound to be able to support your chil,sed
@ simpson and David....Is it probably true that GENERALLY speaking, parents in wealthier areas tend to care more about their kids' primary education than parents in poorer districts - they shouldn't be punished for it but when is enough enough. These are "public schools." Either - they should either send their kids to private school or have all this stuff done off campus. It's like cops or firemen in Brooklyn Heights or the Upper east side having better equipment than other nabes because their residents are willing to pay for it.
"libero nazi agenda?" yikes. you must be a lot of fun at PTA meetings, brooklynmom78.
Lower income parents, poor whites included, are not aware that they should donate to the PTA. Getting children enrolled in school and on the lunch program, and bus rout is well known, but the parents may not know they should donate to the PTA. This should be sent out to parents every year at registration.
This push to spread around donations will simply dry up the donations. As NJ resident, I second the comment on the abject failure of the Abbott program. Hoboken spends $24k per year per student with lousy results. Lastly, to the Darien caller: NYC is slightly less homogenous than Darien. Not sure that model works in NYC.
The larger issue should be discussed here: this is part of the privatizing of the public schools. Part of the Republican plan for destroying them, and setting up a permanent voucher/private school system, in which the richest kids will get superb educations and no one else will.
Rachel Falcone, the more likely alternative would be that they'd leave (see, for example, NYC in the 1960s and 1970s).
If we are going to redistribute $ to ALL schools -- the next step should be to fund ALL public schools in the state from a general fund. However, that would wreak havoc on the real estate market. The wealthy (among others) would not like that.
I feel the need to put in my plug for Catholic schools here. Yes, we pay about $5K a year for tuition, and yes, our equivalent of the PTA raises funds like crazy, so we are always putting our hands in our pockets - BUT my son's third-grade class had 13 kids.
I am the PTA President of a wonderful elementary school in Brooklyn. I think it's shameful that PTA's need to raise money for their schools AT ALL. It is sad that the public school system itself cannot pay for everything a school might need. The system is inequitable and that is the bottom line.
We do not ask for a specific amount for parents, we just ask that people give whatever they can.
I belive deeply in public education, which has already been undermined by the charter schools, and I have sympathy for the author's disquiet. That said, my question is this: If parents in the wealthy schools don't give the money to the PTA for art classes, yoga, music, etc., that benefits everyone at least in that school, wealthy parents will still send their own kids to private art, yoga, music classes. This seems a little better.
Are these PTAs or PTOs doing this kind of fundraising and spending? There is a difference between the two groups. PTA's main mission is advocacy, not fundraising. At the workshops I've attended over my many years in PTA on Long Island, we are told NOT to be spending money on teacher salaries, etc.
Our public school in Brooklyn is having a debate whether parents can donate to a specific line in the PTA budget (for art or music, etc, specifically) because they don't like their money going in to the general PTA fund (which may go to copiers or paper, etc.) I can't imagine getting anyone here to agree to give their money to another school.
@Ana from nj
You've got that right. I remember reading (some 15 years or so back) how with State aid, Newark had a per student budget MUCH larger than average suburban districts.
That money was just poured down a rat hole. Corruption & lack of parent involvement rendered all the extra dollars useless.
Sheldon, to make the opposing argument, the benefit of the current system vs yours is that the money raised school-wide will benefit all children in the school (e.g., children of single parents; children of live-in building staff; etc.) whereas family-by-family funding will hurt those children in PS6, etc who don't have money.
We HAVE a system for pooling money to fund schools equally. It's called taxes. If we used that system properly, and committed to equal and ADEQUATE funding for all children, this would be a nonissue. The PTA funding race is a symptom of a much deeper problem.
The system is inherently flawed. The fact that parents are allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money for their own children, turning their public schools into private schools, is what divides parents and prevents them from changing the system. If the rich had to watch their children suffer through a crumbling public school system without being able to pay their way out of it, maybe they would join the poor in the fight for quality education for ALL.
This is exactly the kind of disgusting libero-nazi agenda that makes parents like me want to put their kids into private schools. Give it up people, there is NO SUCH THING as true equality, it goes against nature. LImiting school donations has NO UPSIDE and only a downside. It's like cutting out your eye to spite your face.
I disagree, RJ. As the son of a public middle school principal, money that went into a general fund would disappear into the void, essentially creating enforced mediocrity. I, too, would rather that all schools be funded sufficiently but I'm not sure that your system would do that.
I also think a city-wide fund would create a situation like you have in San Francisco or Chicago, where middle-class or affluent families flee the cities en masse rather than sending their children to bad schools, depriving the City of taxes and the school system of better advocates (fair or unfair, affluent educated parents tend to know which levers to pull and have access to those levers.)
Do only the wealthy get into Anderson? This is the most disturbing thing I have heard. Are there no middle or lower income families that get into Anderson?
whoa--does this guest drink coffee with andrea bernstein in the morning?
PTA money CANNOT be used to pay for teacher salaries! Plus, if PTA money should be taxed or shared, then so to should the funds hedge funds pour into charter schools!
If this idea of using money from richer cities to poorer cities in NJ DID NOT WORK with the so called "abbot districts" how is your idea suppose to work or be different?
All monies donated should be thoroughly documented and publicly-disclosed, PROMINENTLY, to exert pressure to level the inequality.
Seems to me there can be no two opinions on this one. The only answer is for ALL parents, rich and poor, to fight for more PUBLIC funding for schools so that we avoid this El-Salvadorification of the US that the right is so vigorously pursuing.
Not sure what the problem is here. Just force half the well educated, rich people to switch housed with half the poor people living in worse school districts. Voila!
Our public school raises amongst the highest per capita amount in the city. I have tried for years to get the PTA to pass along some of our funds, but there is no enthusiasm for that. People don't want to hand over a check to a fund or to another school where there is no accountability for how that money is spent. I am hoping to eventually get our school to fund a Donors Choose item periodically.
I understand the impetus behind the suggestion that money that parents raise for be shared rather than used only in their own school, but it is completely unrealistic and overlooks a simple fact - if the money is not going to be used for their own kids, the parents simply will NOT contribute their time, effort, and money towards fundraising.
So, let me get this straight - my hard earned dollars that I use to help improve my children's education should be confiscated to use on irresponsible people's children.
Yes, that's the correct term - irresponsible. I did not have children until I could damn well afford them.
Hmm, it's one thing to raise money for a school trip or something like a new gym/library but parents paying for things like extra teaching assistants, gives me the creeps: it takes the government's responsibility off the hook and distorts the egalitarian mission of public education.
If parents (in wealthier and more involved school districts) want to give their kids a heads up with regards to hiring staff for extra tutoring etc.- nothing wrong with that but it should be done off campus.
This issue has bothered me for some time. I think money that parents raise for schools should go into a general, city-wide fund for use in all schools. (I'd prefer, actually, that this was part of our general tax system--it's currently a bit like BIDs; neighborhoods that can afford better upkeep buy it for themselves alone, despite the fact that they work with the same people, use their labor and products, use the same public transport, etc. etc.). If parents are only motivated to raise money for their own schools--i.e., their own kids--they should start a family foundation and use it to overschedule their kids with private tutoring, sports/arts training etc. (my sympathies for the kids). We are a citywide--nationwide, actually--interdependent community, and funding for important things like schooling should remain a community-funded resource. And yes, I have a vested interest--I have a goddaughter in a public school.
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