Following Up: PTA Funding

Friday, June 08, 2012

Beth Fertig, WNYC's education reporter and contributor to SchoolBook, follows up on the exploration of funding disparities in NYC's public schools with the rules as to what parents may, and may not, pay for.

Comments [19]

James from Brooklyn, NY

I am a public middle school teacher in a fast gentrifying neighborhood of Brooklyn. Honestly, I feel as if this whole debate comes back to a fundamental question about what type of society we want to be. If we are to truely be a nation of merit where any child anywhere within our borders has an equal shot at success (however one may define it), then we MUST start by ensuring that every child has access to QUALITY education. Right now, that is certainly not the case.

There is a large part of me that feels, if wealthy parents can afford to donate money to their children's education, who are we to say that they should not? Why not? There is also a part of me that says that if a parent is wealthy enough to donate $1,000 or $1,500 or $2,000 to their school, then they owe a greater debt to the system which has allowed them to prosper so. If we as a society collectively agree to the former stance, so be it, but we must be honest with ourselves and admit that we are perpetuating a crushing cycle of poverty that will eventually be inescapable for all but the luckiest of the lower class. Sure, every once in a while you'll read some heart-warming stories about those that rise to the top of their class, attend an Ivy league university and go on to unimaginable success. But we must starkly face the reality that for every one of these stories, there are dozens of equally bright and ambitious young men and women who will not escape the snares of the polarized education system they were born into by no fault of their own.

Ultimately, I think that we should adopt an NFL style system, wherein a portion of PTA and alumni donations goes straight to the school and another portion gets skimmed off the top and swept into a pool which is redistributed to schools according to need (as determined by any number of factors).

Jun. 08 2012 03:24 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

You guys are missing the point. Parents who either "care more"???, or have the means to privately fund their specific "public" schools, will never put pressure on the DOE via politicians - to change the system - why would they?

It can be done - look at crime. Only when middle and upper classes got "fed up" with NYC's crime rate - did politicians start to listen, even though it was the working and poorer neighborhoods that suffered the most.

If the well off were allowed to pay for extra cops, "just for their precincts." NYC would like a 3rd world country, I'm afraid the school system already is.

Jun. 08 2012 02:50 PM
bernie from bklyn

i don't know why brian has latched onto this as a supposed "issue". it's not. if parents in park slope or wherever want to raise a ton of money for their school, go for it! why are you villifying these parents who are trying to improve their school? all this talk about having to give a % of what they raise to other schools is ridiculous....
ok, maybe parents that do homework with their kids and read to them alot should be required to give a certain % of their time to go to cover for parents who don't do homework w/ their kids? where does it end?
the reality is the schools w/ more poor kids get title 1 money and if they have a good principal and the parents do what they should and are involved in their kids' education then they are in the same position to get a good education.

Jun. 08 2012 02:22 PM
Andrew Strom from Jackson Heights

Sheldon's point is right on target, but requires some more elaboration. The public school system is badly underfunded. If the wealthy and well-connected parents in Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn used their energy to lobby for more money for public schools, we would all be better off. Instead, perversely, they make and solicit tax deductible contributions to their own child's school, further eroding the tax base. The result is a three-tiered public school system. We have Title I schools that get substantial funding, but huge need since parents at those schools can't afford all the extras the rest of us take for granted; then there are schools in middle income or mixed neighborhoods that don't qualify for Title I but can't engage in meaningful fundraising, and finally there are the schools in wealthy neighborhoods where parents kick in $1,000 per family or more to supplement the school budget.

The result is that the students who already have the most advantages at home also get the most extras at school -- teachers for the arts, the best state of the art equipment, assistants in each classroom, etc. And to those who say no one is harmed if some schools raise extra money, the simple answer is that all educational measures are comparative, so if children in one school are doing better as a result of these extras, then children in other schools are effectively doing worse.

Finally, there is a relatively easy, albeit imperfect solution to this problem. DOE could require that once a PTA raises more than $50 per child, half of every additional dollar must go to a general fund. That way parents could continue to fundraise to support their children's school as much as they want, but the rest of us would also benefit from those efforts.

Jun. 08 2012 02:02 PM
Debra from Washington Heights

There is a $63/$126 school NYC tax credit singles/marrieds can take on their income tax return if they are not a dependent of someone. Even people who don't work can file for this and get a check. If this credit was reduced or done away with, there would be painless money available for the schools. The education of all NYC kids should be a concern for all NYers.

Jun. 08 2012 01:40 PM
DTorres from Nathan Strauss Projects

If these parents, just said to heck with the public school system and
started a home based school for their kids, would that be better?
It looks like they are using their money, resources to improve their
kids educational experience.
If the Public School system became a place for poor kids only, nobody wins.

Jun. 08 2012 01:26 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Elle - exactly, and that's why there has NOT been the any REAL pressure for decades on the DOE from middle and upper middle class parents, who send their kids to "public" schools like ps 321 and similar ones, as it's easier and cheaper to "privately" subsidize any short-comings for their specific school, compared to paying for private school.

This has created a two-tiered, 3rd world type system.

Jun. 08 2012 10:52 AM
g iin staten island from staten island

When the Chancellor is closing "poorly performing schools", they are invariably "poor schools" whose PTAs cannot afford to pay for extra teachers, school aids, tutors, arts and music, after school programs, etc. When was the last time the chancellor tried to close a "well heeled" school? Looks like there is a corrolation between money and student performance. So how is it fair that "poor schools" get closed/reorganized when the students are not on an equal playing field?

Jun. 08 2012 10:44 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

Oh yes, "advocating for system-wide change" has worked so well thus far. Parents have given up on the hope of the DOE improving ANYTHING. They've taken matters into their own hands. Who can blame them?

Jun. 08 2012 10:41 AM


Do we need any addition evidence that indicates our government has thoroughly FAILED us??

There isn't even a publicly funded school, anymore.

Jun. 08 2012 10:41 AM
Elisa from White Plains, NY

You realize this hiring conversation is all semantics. If you can hire non-core teachers, you are freeing up money for the core teachers. If you can hire an aide, you free up money for other teachers or supplies. Consultants raise the level teaching. It also allows them to hire/keep teachers who are more experienced, as opposed to the teachers who are new and cost less.

This can lower class size and make the environment completely different--everything from more arts programs, give air conditioners to rooms, etc. After teaching in poor areas (100% free lunch) and seeing lack of materials, rooms that are over 100 degrees, fresh foods, etc.

Title 1 funds can only be used for limited uses.

Jun. 08 2012 10:40 AM
Joan from Brooklyn

The city does not want to know the extent of this. If rich schools can provide their kids with services labeled as extras so be it. Poor schools get lots of talk about charters and test scores but they are just jails by another name and so be it.

Jun. 08 2012 10:40 AM
John from NYC

The DOE should be conducting audits of the school cafeteria funds. I believe there are numerous instances where schools are not returning excess funds at the end of the school year to the DOE.

Jun. 08 2012 10:39 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

No Lisa - This takes pressure off of other-wise better off and politically connected parents from advocating for system-wide change. Why would they, if their OWN school is taken care of?

Jun. 08 2012 10:38 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Whether the PTA is hiring/ funding a "science teacher" or a "science and technology aide", a substantial impact is had on education quality and and inequality.

Jun. 08 2012 10:36 AM

But how is this a problem?

Schools are getting better from parent investment, no school is getting worse.

Jun. 08 2012 10:34 AM

Do i understand that PTA funding of school programs is thought of in the same way as "soda" in a 32 ounce cup?
Please explain.

Jun. 08 2012 10:33 AM
g in staten island from staten island

When a PTA hires an extra teacher, is the money paid "privately" to the teacher or does that teacher get a Department of Ed paycheck--as in the PTA donated the money to the DOE to hire a specific staff person for a specific school?

Jun. 08 2012 10:31 AM
Lisa from Forest Hills

If parents of public school students are willing and able to contribute financially to the enrichment of their children's education, from which everyone else in the school's children also benefit, it seems the rules should be pretty welcoming. Would we prefer these financially able parents put their children in private school instead?

Jun. 08 2012 10:11 AM

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