Monday, October 5, 2009

Spending money in schools

I've been delinquent in keeping up with the London Free Press' Kelly Pedro's reporting on the money families pitch in to their children's schools throughout the school year. Pedro's year-long look is in its fourth (fifth?) iteration so far, with recent stories published Saturday and Monday. The goal is to follow a series of London-area families throughout a full school year and track the money they spend on school-related activities.
Saturday's piece showed two elementary school families (one public school, one Catholic school) and what they've doled out for their kids so far this year. Monday's touches on a high school student and the dollars thrown at his involvement in the football team.
As previously stated, I'm envious of this series. Great idea and the collection of stories by year's end will be an eye-opener for many.
Follow the series and related spreadsheet online at http://www.lfpress.com/news/classroomcash.
It's being noticed too— the London District Catholic School Board trustees touched on the series' first few iterations at its Sept. 14 meeting. The minutes are taken down after the subsequent board meeting, so I've uploaded the pertinent comments to my GoogleDocs.
The questions raise an important contextual point I hope is explained as the series continues. Schools do a lot of fundraising that covers a gamut of causes— from school trips and activities to supporting various charitable causes such as United Ways, disaster relief, etc. The school-based funds that must now be consolidated and reported in school board financial audits have to include all this money, even though it simply funnels through a school-based bank account on the way to other causes.
I would hope this sort of fundraising is explained and broken out from what the series has highlighted so far— the money for student planners, locker deposits and the like.
I'm also looking forward to the continuing installments.

5 comments:

kelly.pedro said...

Hi Hugo,
On our website, we've created a spreadsheet with categories on what each family has spent money on so far. It's broken down into fundraising, school fees and charitable donations. The spreadsheet runs with every story at www.lfpress.com/classroom cash

Kelly Pedro

kelly.pedro said...

I should have also included in my last comment that I was at that board meeting and while I think vice-chair Hall brought up an interesting point, I think it needs to be pointed out that while the amount schools report are not just fundraising, they're classified as "school-generated funds" this money is still coming from parents. Parents pay for student agendas, field trips and often cut a cheque to charities, so the money is coming out of the same wallet.

Kelly

Education Reporter said...

Kelly:

Welcome!
Thanks for the info. I'll edit this post and toss a link up.

Your second point-- you're right. It does all come from the same pocket. I still think it's important to differentiate the classroom fee for a science course from the chocolate bars parents take to work for their kids from the $50 a student pulls out of family members in Terry Fox Drive pledges. The science fee dramatically affects a student's outcome in his/her academics. The pledges? Not as much, I would say.

Hugo

Education Reporter said...

Oh, forgotten end to that last point-- as Kelly correctly points out all of the above are stated as "school-generated funds," since they all flow through a school-level bank account.

Anonymous said...

I think that fundraising keeps parents busy(and out of the hair of school admin. and staff).

Albeit that some parents contribution to their "engagement" is through volunteering for fundraising as the one family in Kelly's report did, BUT, often this goes way overboard and the number of fundraisers simply unnecessary.

Many school councils no longer fundriase, preferring to get into other issues instead.

I also believe that the gov't counts on the generosity of eager parents willing to please whenever they're asked because they believe it gets their children a better education. I think all of those parents groups that yak on about the gov't fixing the funding formula might just pipe down and quit opening their wallets on command. Why should a gov't pay the true costs of public education when parents can be used to fill the void?

However, we know that quality education is about more than money...right?

In my own experience parents have been more a pain-in-the-ass about making other parents feel guilty about NOT contributing.

It's the choice of families ultimately.

Secondary school is a whole different (and expensive) ball of wax.