PTA Gift for Someone Else’s Child? A Touchy Subject in California
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Of all the inequalities between rich and poor public schools, one of the more glaring divides is PTA fund-raising, which in schools with well-heeled parents can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars a year or more.
Several years ago, the Santa Monica-Malibu school board came up with a solution: Pool most donations from across the district and distribute them equally to all the schools.
This has paid big benefits to the needier schools in this wealthy district, like the Edison Language Academy in Santa Monica, where half the children qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The campus is decorated with psychedelic paintings of civil rights icons such as Cesar Chavez and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the work of the school’s art teacher, Martha Ramirez Oropeza, whose salary is paid by the pooled contributions. That money has also funded the school’s choral program, teacher aides, a science lab and a telescope.
The funding program is considered a national model, and has many enthusiastic supporters. But for some locals it is a sore point that has helped fuel a long-simmering secession movement in which Malibu — more solidly affluent than Santa Monica — would create its own district, allowing it to keep all of its donations in its own schools.
Craig Foster, a school board member from Malibu who favors separation, said parents voluntarily giving money wanted to see the fruits of their donations.
An ideal PTA system gives a parent “the opportunity to put your money where your heart is,” said Mr. Foster, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse. “It has to be an emotional appeal, and it has to be for the benefit of the donor.”
Indeed, the powerful appeal of helping one’s own child has turned the apple-pie PTA into a mirror of society’s larger stratification. According to a new report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group, schools that serve just one-tenth of 1 percent of American students collect 10 percent of the estimated $425 million that PTAs raise nationwide each year.
And those schools, not surprisingly, are some of the least needy, according to the study, which analyzed PTA tax returns from 2013 and student demographics. The richest PTA in the nation, with $2 million in revenue, was at Highland Park High School in a suburb of Dallas, where no one PTA Gift for Someone Else’s Child? A Touchy Subject in California - The New York Times: