Shrinking School Budgets Have Parents Filling the Gaps

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WNYC's Beth Fertig

No surprise: kids are expensive. But in an age of multibillion-dollar school budgets, why does sending a child to public school cost so much?

Parents who are responding to a SchoolBook survey about the high cost of public school in New York City are ticking off their expenses: Overnight trips. After-school programs. School photos. And of course glue sticks and disinfecting wipes.

To top it all off, many parents say, they are being asked for a "suggested" contribution to the school fund or to the PTA, or a donation to the school fund-raiser, which can run into thousands of dollars.

It has only gotten worse after five rounds of budget cuts to schools (even as the overall city education budget has increased). Parents say they are being asked to pay for things that used to be financed by the city -- like aides, librarians and art teachers -- as principals shed personnel in the face of shrinking allocations for their schools.

"Our PTA pays for things like repairing the copy machine and school supplies for all the classrooms, and art supplies," said Rachel Porter, the parent of a child at Public School 261 in Boerum Hill, who called into "The Brian Lehrer Show" on WNYC during a segment on the topic on Tuesday. "And all of the arts enrichment, like our kids go to Carnegie Hall in fourth grade."

She added, "And we are talking about the PTA funding a part-time librarian because we have a library but our principal can’t afford to hire a librarian."

How much have your child's public school and school-related activities cost you so far this academic year? What have you been asked to pay for? Respond to our survey below.

SchoolBook's journalists will analyze and compare the data, across schools and boroughs.

A couple of hundred parents have responded so far, but we are looking for more -- particularly from the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and low-income neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, listen to the report by Beth Fertig of WNYC, who interviewed some of the parents who have already responded. Add your voice to the mix. And feel free to join the conversation.

You do not need a Facebook log-in to respond to the survey form, though you will be asked to sign in through Facebook if you choose to comment. Your survey responses will not be published publicly, but your comments will.

SchoolBook is hoping to do a more scientific breakdown later with data on how much money was raised last year by every school in the city. WNYC filed a Freedom of Information request back in September. But the Department of Education has yet to respond.