NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Unfair" Parents Helping Public Schools

September 24, 1997

Across the country, parents of children in public schools are trying to supplement school district budgets through private fund-raising campaigns. But some school district administrators are blocking parents\' efforts -- contending that it is "unfair" to students from poor families who cannot do the same.

  • Parents at a Brooklyn, New York, school raise more than $100,000 a year to pay the salaries of two arts teachers and a science teacher.
  • In New Jersey, parents at more than 50 public schools have formed foundations to buy computers, place satellite dishes atop school buildings and stock library shelves.
  • At a public elementary school in Detroit, parents pay a $75 "enhancement fee" per child to help the school buy microscopes, baseballs and textbooks, and although parents are exempted in hardship cases, even the poorest usually find the money.
  • A group of New York City parents in Greenwich Village wants to pay the salary of a fourth grade teacher in an effort to reduce class sizes.

But some parents say these efforts don't sit well with egalitarian school administrators. In the Greenwich Village case, Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew initially blocked parents from donating $46,000 they had raised to keep a teacher who was about to be laid off.

Chicago has imposed a cap on how much parents are permitted to raise to help their children -- no more than $1,500 a year in schools with fewer than 1,000 students, and no more than $3,000 at larger schools. A lawyer for the Chicago Board of Education tried to justify the policy by explaining that the Board "wanted to make sure their are not gross discrepancies in fund-raising activities, so that the availability of funds in more well-heeled communities is not greater than that in less affluent communities."

Source: Donna Harrison, "The Real Class Divide," New York Times, September 24, 1997.


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