Search form

Donate Today

IN Close

DIY Funding

December 11, 2014

To make up for education shortfalls, many PTA groups raise money for their individual schools. But is it just widening the gap between schools in poor and wealthy districts?

Feliks Banel: Every year at Green Lake Elementary, part of the playground transforms into a Christmas tree lot.  Tracy Tavis is co-president of the Green Lake Elementary PTA.

Tracy Tavis: This raises money for programs for the school funds for classroom accounts for the teachers and help with the playground, instrumental music, vocal music, just a variety of things . . . a lot of the support services for the school.

Each year, the Green Lake Elementary PTA sells Christmas Trees to help raise money for the school.

Banel: The reality of public school funding means parents are raising a lot of money to pay for things not covered by taxpayers.  Green Lake raises more than $100,000 through its tree sale, auction and walkathon.  In Seattle, different schools raise different amounts, which can make individual school funding difficult to understand.

Tracy Tavis, Co-President of the Green Lake Elementary PTA.

Tavis: I don’t really know how all the other schools get funded.  It’s not ever really clearly explained to, I think, me or other people exactly how much one school gets versus another school.  It’s not really clear I think. It’s as clear as mud, essentially. So it’s hard to know.

Kevin Corrigan: We’re trying to turn the ship and make the transparency available at the same time we’re trying to make the funding more equitable, and making sure we’re meeting the needs of the school.  And so you know, we’re working on making it more understandable, but I think it’s a tough nut to crack.

Banel: Kevin Corrigan is Director of Grants for Seattle Public Schools.  He understands better than anyone that different schools around the district raise different amounts of cash.  It adds up to $3.6 million.

Corrigan: John Stanford International School, they’re probably among the top in terms of raising additional for in support of the school, up to the tune of 400-plus thousand dollars. It also goes down to very small schools’ allocations, where they’re raising $8,000.

A PDF of all grant funding that Seattle Schools receive can be found here.


Banel: Katherine Schomer is president of the district-wide Seattle Council PTSA.  She knows that some parents at schools that raise a lot of money worry that they’ll be perceived as “haves” in a system of haves and have-nots.  But, she says the schools that raise less money typically get more resources from the school district and the federal government.  She also says that fundraising isn’t the solution.

Katherine Schomer, President of Seattle Council PTSA, says that schools that raise less money, typically get more resources from the school district.

Katherine Schomer: I think the overall thing is there’s just not enough funding to fund K-12 education right now.  There’s not enough. The schools get some from the state, the district adds to that, and there’s still not enough.

Corrigan: Most of the stuff, most of the positions and the things that are funded through like these PTA grants are supplemental. So it’s a matter of weighing how important they are to that particular group of people.

Banel: “Supplemental” nowadays means staff to teach art and P.E. and music, subjects that aren’t covered on standardized tests, along with school nurses and counselors.  Tracy Tavis says that a lot of these so-called “supplemental” things at Green Lake would simply go away if the PTA didn’t fundraise.

Tavis: We give the teachers classroom accounts to help buy supplies they need for classrooms to help for their curriculum, so those would go away. And in most cases the teachers still spend that money, so it comes out-of-pocket, so that’s quite of a challenge.  We do vocal music for our kids, and those would not happen.  We do some assemblies for the kids.  Those would not happen.  In addition, we have scholarship programs for our after-school classes to help kids in need, so we also have money set aside to help that so kids can do the afterschool programs with the scholarship.  So it pays for a lot of stuff.  It’s a lot.  

Money raised by PTAs help fund materials, staff, assemblies and extracurricular activities.

Schomer: What I think’s been happening in the last few years and why there’s all of these talk of unfairness and inequality is because we are fighting for resources, and there’s not enough resources. We’re fighting against each other, unfortunately.

Banel: Katherine Schomer says that in the current public school funding model, individual schools are competing for private dollars.  For Katherine Schomer, the real solution to this is political.

Schomer: The state PTA organizes something called Focus Day.  It’s a big come meet your representative where all the parents and kids come to kinda stress education. So we have to get them to solve the root of the problem.  We’re really just putting a lot of Band-aids. A lot of work for Band-aids.

Corrigan: It’s definitely a Band-aid. What we’re in essence doing is, we’re accepting an IOU is what it is. And we’re trusting that the PTAs will make good on that IOU and the principal’s making good that their PTA will make good on and they do, somehow or other. And I don’t know what kind of superhuman feats they have to do in order to make it happen, and I’m assuming that they’re a lot, but somehow it happens each year.



Made possible in part by

There are 0 comments

Read Comments Hide Comments

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <xmp><em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd></xmp>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
As a public media organization, KCTS 9 is committed to presenting a diversity of voices and perspectives through the stories we produce. We invite our readers to participate in an active and respectful discourse through our comments feature. All comments are moderated before posting to our website; if we deem a comment to be inappropriate and/or threatening, it will not be published.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.