Of School Fundraisers
Och! School fundraiser season is upon us, and if you want to get my blood boiling, ask my five-years-ago self to have my kid sell frozen cookie dough and cinnamon rolls in order to earn cheap prizes probably made in China. Go ahead, make my day!
But when Truman brought home the fundraising forms last week -- Delicious Delights! like the Thaw-and-Bake Blueberry Muffins ($16) or the Pizza Pail ($16, too), full, I was sure, of all kinds of ingredients I try to avoid, not to mention expensive (win a Sling Shot Plush animal! a plastic crawling bug! A Tornado Mug!) -- there was a bit of a surprise. The PTA letter that accompanied it judiciously mentioned that the school would get 40% of the proceeds from the sale of these caloric firebombs; or you could write a check and the school would get 100%.
So, I was getting ready to write a check for $20 (with "donation in lieu of fundraiser" in the memo line) when I saw a comment thread from another Portland Public Schools mom. She was lamenting the state of her PTA's fundraiser, which hadn't been accompanied by a letter like mine. Another mom on her thread said her school (in the area, I assume) had given parents a donation goal for the year -- $500, plus fundraisers.
Meanwhile, I'm helping the cross country team raise money to go to invitational meets and buy uniforms. Nearly all the money for sports is now provided by parents -- the coaches' salaries and the cost of buses come from the sports fees, and fundraisers pay for uniforms, and the Booster Club pays for end-of-season "banquets" (which are usually potlucks) and awards. Volunteers often end up paying for the privilege through t-shirts and Chinook Books and (in my case) babysitting. When I do the math, I realize that high school students who are involved in a few activities do pay $500, plus, a year for the privilege of going to public school.
What is there to say about this? Sometimes I feel like the school year is one big revolving hit-up. I'm hitting other parents up for Chinook Books for cross country while they're hitting me up for Run for the Arts laps while the schools are hitting us up for snacks and boxes of tissues while my friends' school are hitting me up for Burgerville and Pizzicato fundraising nights. I remember writing at least five or six checks for field trips last year. One of the cross country runners rolled his eyes and said, while we talked about the lap-a-thon we are planning for Friday, and the book sales, and the other money-raising ideas, "why don't we just ask people for one check?" Indeed.
Why don't we? Wouldn't it be easier and simpler? At the beginning of the school year, principals could come out to us and say, "we need $12,000 per kid for what we want to do. The state gives us $10,800. Pay up (if you can)." Obviously, we all couldn't afford to make up the difference. But at least we wouldn't have our kids pushing sweets and pizza and those endless forms at us -- the kids could focus on doing arts and PE and (I don't know) reading and math and not on raising money for it.
If you ran the world (or even just your own PTA), how would you fix it?