Thursday, December 2, 2010
Is DCSS leveling the playing field between schools?
Our talented researcher known as DeKalb Parent has looked into PTA spending and will have you wondering if we couldn't level the playing field better by bringing Title 1 funds directly into the schools. Read on:
Maureen Downey who writes the AJC Get Schooled blog brought up an interesting question in a recent article titled “Should parent affluence influence how schools are funded?”
I took a look at a few affluent areas of DeKalb to see what their PTAs fund for students. In particular I pulled data for some of the schools that have the greatest percentages of responses to the online survey regarding redistricting.
The parents at these schools work hard for their money, and they work just as diligently to raise money for their schools. Reviewing their PTA’s income and expenditures gives an idea of the “extras” these school provide. Although this is only one reason parents might want their children to stay at these schools, the impact made by the PTA is substantial and obviously beneficial for the students.
Regarding the PTAs expenditures, the local PTA scrutinizes and controls the funds. The money is spent in a variety of ways. I didn’t see any single expenditure taking up the lion’s share of the budget. There are many different programs to appeal to the varied interests of students. They fund programs for struggling learners, average students, and gifted students. Teachers have a say in what their classrooms need. Money is earmarked to honor teachers. Many of the programs foster critical thinking skills and a respect for the environment.
This brought to mind the question - Are Title 1 funds being used as wisely in Title 1 schools as these PTAs use their funds? If you look at the allocation of Title 1 dollars that are supposed to level the playing field between more affluent schools and schools that are not as affluent, you will see that most Title 1 funds per DCSS Title 1 school are substantially greater than the funds raised and spent by these affluent PTAs. Should Title 1 schools have more local control over how their funds are spent? Would that allow them the accountability and flexibility to offer the variety of educational experiences that these more affluent schools have provided for their students? Couldn’t Title 1 students benefit from some of the programs that these students have access to? In other words, is there a better way to level the playing field than DCSS currently has in place? Regarding transparency, is there a full accounting of these funds on the DCSS website?
Below is a sample of what Fernbank publishes as its PTA income and expenditures. They are to be commended for their transparency and extremely low administrative cost. Here is the link if you want a full view of their online balance sheet. They keep meticulous accounts:
Projected: $ 131,100.00
Actual: $ 132,596.23
Community Enrichment (funded by Membership Dues/self supported))
TOTAL Community Enrichment $21,255.80
Fund Raising Expenses
TOTAL Fund Raising $39,666.54
PTA Administration (funded by $$$ for Education/Tshirts/Box Tops)
TOTAL PTA Administration $6,501.20
Staff Enrichment (funded by Wrapping Paper)
Reflections Art Exhibitions
Staff Appreciation $1,755
Teacher of the Year
Teacher Stipends $5,150.65
TOTAL Staff Enrichment $8,024.54
Student Enrichment - (funded by School Pictures & School Store/Bookfairs/or self supported)
Library Gift Book Program
Chess Club $13,812.83
Lego Club $1,840.00
Fifth Grade Fun Run $2,678.50
TOTAL Student Enrichment $31,917.42
The Vanderlyn PTA webpage says that its primary vehicle for revenue generation is an Annual Fund that parents can donate to. Its goal is $100,000, and currently it stands at $73,000+.
Take a look at the FAQ page to see that this money is very well spent giving students many enrichment opportunities:
Austin’s PTA doesn’t publish its revenue figures, but look at their PTA webpage to see some of the enrichment they provide:
Oak Grove Elementary:
Oak Grove doesn’t publish its revenue either, but it does quite a bit of fundraising, foremost being the Fall Festival. I’ve been to some of their Fall Festivals, and they’re big events. It also has a foundation similar to Vanderlyn. Take a look at its stated goals for expenditure of dollars raised through this foundation by clicking here.