I sent my kids off to school this month, and nestled among the 894 pieces of paper that we received from both schools were, of course, the requests for money. Join the PTA! Donate to the Educational fund—We cover what the PTA doesn't! Give to the parent fund! The teacher appreciation fund! The school fund! The class fund!...I don't know about you, but I'm funded out. Not only that, I'm questioning if, in the grand scheme of all things fair and equal, it is really "necessary." I know what the money is being used for, but in my experience need is relative.
My kids attend a private preschool and a public elementary school. The school that is hitting us up for the most money is—surprise!—the public school. The PTA asked us for $225—$25 of which was for "school supplies," theoretically so we don't have to purchase them. Then there is the district-wide private educational fund that asks each family for $500 and if you can't donate that, give what you can. This covers programs and services that are supposed to keep our school kids competitive with school kids across the US who don't have to live with California's Prop. 13 fall out.
$225 + $500. For a public elementary school. That's a lot of money. Money that I, as a former inner city school teacher, have a hard time parting with even though it would benefit my own child. Both the PTA and the education fund have told us "these are for things we need...our kids need these programs."
And I say, come visit the school where I used to teach. Let's talk about needs. At the school where I taught, the PTA asked for $5 per family. That's it. I bought my own paper and pencils for my class because beyond the one pencil given to each student at the beginning of the year, my school had none to spare. I bought my own books for my classroom because when I started teaching, my bookshelf was filled with moldy books that were culled from the library. We used donated paper—recycled letterhead from companies who were changing their branding. Do you know how heartbreaking it is to have kids do their math problems or artwork on a law firm's old letterhead? Oh sure, we couched it as "being environmentally conscious," but sometimes it would have been nice to have cool, clean, weighty paper to paint on.
Art teachers? We shared two between all the schools in the district. If we didn't make time for art in our own classrooms, we would have to settle for art twice a year.
A music program? Non-existent.