A Seattle School Fundraiser Is Questioning School Fundraising Itself
May 14, 2022 4:08 PM   Subscribe

Challenging the school PTA fundraising norm, 12 of south Seattle's most diverse and low-income (Title 1) schools agreed not to compete against one another but instead to pool their earnings and share in them equally. The approach was designed to lessen the potentially disparate impact of fundraising and to support schools without sophisticated fundraising arms. “This isn’t equitable,” cofounder Christina Jiménez, a Graham Hill Elementary parent and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) teacher, told the Emerald at the time, “but this is a move in the right direction.” (SLSouthSeattleEmerald, long-form article worth reading in full)
posted by splitpeasoup (10 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I am favoriting this before reading, based upon the publication alone! The Emerald is a quality paper and I recommend it to anyone in the area. It is everything the Times, institutionally, cannot be.
posted by panhopticon at 4:38 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]

I worked in--and sent my daughter to--our city's local arts school, for grades 6-12. It was excellent. But one year (kind of like Junior Year Abroad) she decided to go to a wonderful local high school, to see what a regular school was like. It was as expected for her. But what blew my mind was registration in August: This school is fucking FREE! The arts school had so many fees, and parental commitment (film/video parents, dance parents, piano parents, etc.) that it demanded financial and time demands that were beyond what an average urban parent could give. A wonderful school, but equitable it was not. So, yeah, mostly white kids in a city whose schools are mostly peopled by free-lunch POC kids. No easy solutions. This is the story in most cities, including ours, Denver. Always glad to read about schools trying to solve funding problems. The USA is not like most countries with our resources in almost all ways (don't get me started on our child mortality rate--That should not be an issue in our country!).

A significant part of the arts school quandary is that most districts used to give art/music instruction in elementary schools. No longer. Ya gotta get those test scores up!
posted by kozad at 5:05 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]

I can't help but think that this would work better with more schools involved. Like maybe all of them? And maybe more parents and contributors and businesses? Like all of them? Then you could get together and decide how to use all resources for the good of the public? For, like, the whole nation?

Seriously America, what the hell? It's like you keep trying to reinvent all the mechanisms, like taxation, that make a civilisation function, except you half-arse it every time.

Why? Or to be more precise, America seems to be great at generating individual and small-scale solutions to social problems. Yet those solutions don't get to scale and don't get to change the fundamentals. Why?
posted by happyinmotion at 6:13 PM on May 14 [25 favorites]

Why? Or to be more precise, America seems to be great at generating individual and small-scale solutions to social problems. Yet those solutions don't get to scale and don't get to change the fundamentals. Why?

Because we fetishize the individual and small-scale while ignoring the problems they have, while condemning large scale solutions for that scale.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:53 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]

PTA politics around fundraising can get ugly. In my daughter's school, the tradition was that each class raised at least some money that went to the senior class. When, of course, the younger class got to senior year, they benefited. One year, without warning, the council for the younger grades decided that they wouldn't do that anymore, cutting off the seniors who had worked from sixth to 11th grade for other classes. It was ugly. It was the end of the younger ones supporting the older ones. But it was a crappy and rather backstabbing move.
posted by etaoin at 9:27 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

I’m glad this is finally being realized by major school districts; it was mandated 10 years ago in the very small district I worked in.
posted by TDIpod at 11:15 PM on May 14

Wealthier, whiter schools farther north in Seattle sometimes bring in six-figure sums through fundraising. Meanwhile schools in District 7, which encompasses most of Southeast Seattle and serves much of the city’s Black, Brown, Indigenous, and refugee communities, raise comparatively little. A few, such as Dunlap Elementary, lack formal PTAs to perform the function at all.

A 2016 study found that Seattle had the fifth-widest achievement gap in the nation between white and Black students among major U.S. cities, while a separate 2018 report concluded Washington’s achievement gap actually got worse during the previous 15 years — more so than in any other state.
Using PTA fundraising to add extra teachers, special programs, etc. has always been one of the ways that schools in majority white neighborhoods are able to be perceived as "better" even though our schools in the same system should all be receiving the same district funding and were supposed to have been desegregated decades ago (and never were except in a very few cases of busing where the "neighborhood schools" had to be broken up so that more kids could benefit from the wealthy parents' fundraising). And when white parents are called out on this, they get very, very mad because they "just want what's best for our kids and who can blame us for this" instead of wanting what's best for every single kid at every single school.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:20 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]

Let's not dance around the issue: in the USA one of the two major parties is committed to destroying public education, primarily (though by no means exclusively) by starving it of funding. Why? They say to give parents "choice" but clearly it's because they fear a well-educated and empowered public. Every plank of their platform (when they even bother to write one beyond "whatever our Dear Leader tells us") is based on a theocratic patrirarchal white-supremacist authoritarianism based on fear and self-victimization. Facts (even admitting the existence of facts) and critical thinking skills are anathema to them. Demographics and democracy put the future of their power in doubt, so they attempt to destroy education and democracy.

The other major party's attitude has mostly been, "well, we have to pretend the other side's views are legitimate and in good faith, even when they are clearly not." To be fair, this didn't happen all at once, and while the old frog-boiling parable is NOT based in actual animal behavior, it does seem to have a solid underpinning in HUMAN behavior. And also, actually admitting that the GOP wants to destroy American values (even the ones it claims to cherish like "liberty") will probably lead to even more widespread violence (we already have our daily Buffalo-style shootings). Not admitting it will also probably lead to more violence, but maybe not as fast, and maybe all those 80-year-old senators are hoping to die before it becomes a personal problem for them.
posted by rikschell at 5:24 AM on May 15 [10 favorites]

rikschell, you're absolutely right, but the issue of inequities within the same school district (in a deep blue city) are sort of a different beast. I went to six different Seattle Public Schools throughout my K-12 education, and the differences in resources were often stark. Some PTAs had what I assume were six- (maybe even seven-?) figure budgets that paid for multiple full time supplemental educators or counselors. Others, practically nothing. It was easy to see the effects of that as a student.
posted by mosst at 6:09 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]

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