It’s no secret that our public schools are desperate for money and that fundraisers are a given part of the school year, but raising extra money for the schools should not be at the students’ expense.
In the past three weeks, my children, ages 6 and 10, have been subjected to a high-pressure sales pitch while at school. If they sell a certain number of items (totaling $120), they can go to a Megaparty, complete with inflatables, held during the school day and on school grounds. If they don’t sell $120 worth of items, they can’t go to the party and will be left behind in the classroom. This fundraiser is used in a number of Huntsville schools, including some where more than 50% of the students receive free or reduced-price lunches.[pullquote type=”2″ align=”right”]It creates a group of children who feel left out of the festivities because their parents can’t afford it, and it provides a convenient way for some children to bully others by bragging about going to the party.[/pullquote]While most fundraisers are benign, this kind of fundraiser puts an unfair burden on children whose parents might be struggling just to survive. Children are encouraged by the schools not to sell door-to-door, so that puts the pressure squarely on the shoulders of moms and dads who don’t have an extra $120 to spend on overpriced merchandise. In addition, it creates a group of children who feel left out of the festivities because their parents can’t afford it, and it provides a convenient way for some children to bully others by bragging about going to the party. This kind of divisiveness should not be promoted by our schools or anyone who works under the umbrella of the school system, such as the Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
Most fundraising in public schools is coordinated by committees of parents who belong to their school’s PTAs. These parents step in and do a wonderful job of helping meet the schools’ needs and going above and beyond what is necessary. But the pressure to accomplish certain goals sometimes leads to losing sight of the main priority: helping the kids. Fundraising is especially vulnerable to this.
Ideally, fundraising should encourage kids and families to work together for a common goal, and no one should be excluded from participation because of their economic status. There are other ways to raise the funds and equipment we need without sacrificing kindness and the ability to do the right thing. Huntsville is a unique and diverse community with many highly educated, creative people who would welcome the opportunity to help the schools if asked. These people are probably not walking the halls at the schools every day, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested or that they wouldn’t have valuable ideas. Our schools belong to everyone, and we should focus on making sure that everyone feels welcome and has an opportunity to help. By reaching out to the larger community, we can accomplish much more while asking for less.