Welcome to Auction Season!
The auction season is well on its way, as the recent Portland Public School e-newsletter alerted us. We have two children at separate schools, and we have already worked the events, scoured businesses for donations, wined & dined at the event. Have you?
Our two schools are very different in nature: one more established institution with a large group of well-connected parents that brings in the school enough money to buy a small house (in some parts of the country) and one newer school whose auction this year was only its 3rd and still has much more room to grow.
Well, here are some things I never knew about the world of PPS auctions:
- Auctions helped schools raise over $1M in 2007
- The Portland School Board allows a school to keep the first $10,000 raised.
- A third of anything above the $10,000 raised is given to an "Equity Fund" at the Portland Schools Foundation for distribution through grants to schools across the district. "It’s one way for schools to spread the wealth."
The school district and foundation are sensitive to the fact that some school communities have the resources to raise money, while others don’t. But years of budget cutbacks have left all schools scrambling to maintain academic support for students and programs such as the arts, PE and library. Half of PPS schools receive federal Title I funds because they serve higher-than-average shares of kids from lower-income homes. Title I revenue is far greater than any amount raised at auctions, but those schools have greater needs, and still have trouble maintaining their programs.
Auction season is unique to Portland (and perhaps Oregon) schools. It is a sign of our inability to fund complete programs at our schools. Friends with children at schools in the Bay Area, New York, or New Jersey say that auctions are uncommon. Some schools with endowments (!) will have auctions to fundraise to maintain and grow their endowments. But, here in Portland, schools established or not are raising funds for enrichment programs, to build libraries, to fund improvements at their schools. On some days, it makes me angry.
Other days, I do appreciate being given the opportunity to contribute time and effort to my school community, and to get to know other parents in the process. Auction planning can be fun and auction-going can be funner.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on auction season. Do you get involved? Do you go? Do you know what programs or improvements at your school auction proceeds fund? Have you had your auction yet? Or, have always seen signs for the auction but cannot / don't want to go? Does your school have a non-auction major fundraiser?