Debbie Resnick, Steve Keener
Parents in more affluent school districts should not be asked or expected to donate money to their neighborhood public schools. As a parent who lives in such a district, I feel pressure to pay for school supplies, field trips and assemblies that should be paid for by the school. While I live in a more affluent neighborhood, this does not mean that my neighbors and I are wealthy. Many of us live within a budget so that we can afford to raise our children in an area that is safe and family-friendly.
A public school paid for by our tax dollars should provide the supplies our students need. Last year, I was asked to “donate” money for assemblies, field trips (one costing over $30), and supplies for art projects. The pressure on the parents is that if you do not donate, these things will be eliminated, and no one wants to be “that parent” or have “that child” who caused every other child to miss out. This can be especially difficult for families with two or more children.
I am also a teacher. I teach in a Title I school that has a high level of poverty. I cannot ask my students’ parents for these types of donations because most of them cannot afford it. So where are the field trips, assemblies, and supplies for art projects for my students?
If we as a society are going to base teacher effectiveness on test scores, we need to be on an equal playing field. Yes, my school receives more funding; however, this money goes to curriculum resources such as ELD (English language development) or intervention programs and additional support staff. It does not provide my students with assemblies or field trips. Supplies are provided to my students through the school district; it is part of our budget, as it should be.
As long as we as a society believe that all children should be receiving a fair and equitable education, then our taxes should be paying for that education. Students who live in poverty are already at a disadvantage. It is unfair to continue that disadvantage through our public school system.
An Anaheim Elementary Education Association member, Debbie Resnick teaches sixth grade.
When parents donate to schools, it enriches kids’ academic experience and helps create incredibly well-rounded children. In our community, parents feel good about giving money. They know it’s spent wisely on various enrichment activities that benefit their kids, such as a Gold Rush field trip to Columbia, assemblies with the Lawrence Hall of Science, poetry classes and musical theater. We have never turned down a kid or told them they can’t go on a field trip because their parents can’t afford to pay. We always find a way for them to go. And we are very discreet.
We have a foundation called Brisbane Educational Support Team (BEST) Parent Teacher Organization. This year they received $33,000 in pledges, with families donating an average of $244. Thanks to the generosity of the community, we can keep the unfunded and underfunded programs that students love, such as music and art. One goal this year, as in previous years, was to keep the libraries open at all three schools. Money will also go toward the books, technology and staff needed to support the new Common Core State Standards. Some of our fundraising events include a phone-a-thon, a lap-a-thon (where students walk laps to raise money), and a Spell-a-thon. We also have passed several parcel tax initiatives over the years to pay for art and music in our district.
When parents generously donate to schools, it can be unifying for a community. I’m not privy to what happens at parent meetings in my district, but as a parent, I know it feels good to help out schools if you can afford it.
Is it fair?
We are not a low-income community, and low-income communities have other opportunities that we may not qualify for when it comes to school funding, such as Title I funds. However, I wish the state or federal government would be more generous — especially to school districts where parents don’t have the means to fund the same types of enrichment programs that we are fortunate enough to have parents fund.
In closing, I would like to say thank you to the Brisbane community for being so generous over the years. All of the teachers here appreciate your generosity.
A Brisbane Teachers Association member, Steve Keener teaches fourth and fifth grades.
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