View Full Version : East Bay Albany Restricts PTA Funding to Ensure Equality Among Its Three Schools

11-28-2010, 09:13 AM
An excerpt from the SFGate article (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/11/27/MNF01GGH0O.DTL) by Jill Tucker:
Call it the battle of the bake sales.

The city of Albany is up in arms over new district-imposed controls on PTA cash at each of the city’s three elementary schools, with the school board dictating what parents can — or more specifically can’t — buy for their kids to supplement their public education.

Things like school-day art, music and chess. It’s an attempt to take on a long-running problem: public schools that are supposed to be equal, but aren’t.

Earlier this year, Albany district officials decided it wasn’t fair for two of the schools, Marin and Cornell, to have parent-funded academic extras like chess, art and music class while Ocean View, their less affluent sister school, went without. So the district suspended those extra classes.

District officials then began public hearings and formed a task force to figure out how to balance what parents want for their own children with the desire to level the educational playing field.

One option would require PTAs to pool donations from all three schools into one district pot, which would be doled out equally.

“We just wanted to make sure something offered during the school day at one school is offered at all schools,” said district Superintendent Marla Stephensen.

Public education, the supposed great equalizer, isn’t supposed to favor one child over another, but unequal funding formulas mean some schools get more money per child, buying smaller classes, boosting teacher salaries and ensuring up-to-date materials.

Parent contributions in some districts tip the scales even more, raising hundreds if not thousands of dollars extra for each child.

That means some students get library books and librarians, art, music and technological gizmos, while the less affluent may go without enough paper and pencils. In wealthy Hillsborough, for example, parents raise more than $3.6 million annually through their foundation, which works out to an extra $2,400 for each of their 1,500 elementary and middle school students.

The money pays for foreign language programs, drama classes and counselors, among a laundry list of extras that aren’t available in neighboring San Mateo County school districts.

Addressing disparities

Jack O’Connell, the state schools superintendent, has spent the past eight years visiting hundreds of schools across the state and has seen the disparities firsthand.

“The inequities do cry for significant education financial reform,” he said. Some communities have been able to absorb severe recessionary budget cuts, while others have not. But O’Connell doesn’t believe the answer is to take resources away from those able to contribute to their schools.

read more>> (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/11/27/MNF01GGH0O.DTL)