The following statement came out of a number of requests to have Parents United weigh in on recently publicized school efforts to fundraise for basic staff and services amidst the current budget crisis.
Parents United for Public Education believes that public education must remain free and available to all children regardless of background. This is particularly important in Philadelphia where poverty deeply impacts children and families all across the city. The majority of parents – who are taxpayers – already make tremendous financial contributions to their schools and their children’s education from providing school supplies; paying for field trips; supporting extracurricular clubs, sports, and special events at the school; to volunteering hours of time and fundraising for their school.
While we absolutely support individual fundraising for schools (no school should be ashamed of how much money it raises), we believe troubling situations have arisen around school fundraising. Clearly schools are in an impossible situation this school year, and parents alone are being increasingly asked or expected (explicitly or implicitly) to bear the cost of government failure and neglect. To us, the defining difference is between fundraising and requests which come across as excessive, mandated per pupil fees placed directly on parents and guardians. We acknowledge that the consideration of what is considered excessive is subjective, but if a school is asking parents alone to purchase staff and programs the District formerly funded in their entirety, we believe that is an excessive and unreasonable ask.
We do not believe that any school should be forced to fundraise for basic staff or core services. It is the District’s responsibility to provide an adequate and equitable distribution of basic staff, services and funds for schools to operate safely and with an educational mission. Therefore, if schools are mandating that parents alone make up the total amount of these services, it seems inappropriate at best and worrisomely coercive and intimidating if done poorly.
We are deeply concerned about equity issues when basic services, staff and functions are left to individual fundraising. Wealth, connections, privilege or the blood, sweat and tears of parents forced into this situation is NOT how we determine access to basic resources.
Schools this year may have to resort to one-time measures for an extraordinary situation but this is neither sustainable nor in any way admirable on behalf of the district. It will inevitably result in gross disparities among schools or a dearth of resources. To force parents by sheer desperation into seeking funds to ensure their high school senior has a guidance counselor, or that phones get answered in the office, or for there to be an assistant principal to help with school climate, is an abdication of the District and state’s core responsibility to the students and families of the city.
Watch Parents United’s Tomika Anglin talk about her concerns about excessive school fundraising on NBC10.