Fairness in School Fundraising?
West Hill United inspires me to speak out when something just doesn't sit well with me. (Thank you, West Hill!) As a parent with elementary school aged children, and also as someone pursuing knowledge through courses in Fundraising management, I've been giving a lot of thought to fundraising in the public school system. I'm concerned that the way fundraising is being carried out in our public schools is a source of inequity and it needs to be questioned.
Please read my blog about this, and if you share my concerns and are motivated to do something about it, please let me know. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do yet, but I just know I am going to do something.
Original post by Nadia Heyd
A few weeks ago, I posted about inequity tied to fundraising in the Toronto District School Board. Since then, I've done some reading, attended some talks to learn more, and have a concrete thing that you can do to help. If you are a taxpayer in Toronto who supports the Toronto District School Board, please write to your school trustee NOW and ask them to support a motion that is coming up at the Feb 9th Board meeting. You can copy and paste the letter below, but please remember to personalize it. If you aren't sure who your school trustee is, you can figure it out by clicking here.
Here is the letter:
Support Trustee Laskin's Request at Feb 9 TDSB Meeting
Dear TDSB Trustee,
As you know, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is now the child poverty capital of Ontario with 50% of Ontario’s children in poverty living in the GTA, up from 44% in 1997 (Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, 2008). As a trustee, I know that you recognize the impact that poverty has on children’s education; indeed 15 Trustees have signed Toronto Working Group on Poverty’s Public Commitment on Poverty.
In December, representatives from the Ministry of Education set up a consultation with the Toronto District School Board’s Inner City Advisory Committee (ICAC) to discuss the development of guidelines for fees for learning materials and activities. In preparation for this consultation, Social Planning Toronto (SPT) investigated student activity fees, course fees and school fundraising in Toronto schools. SPT discovered an existing disparity between opportunities for students living in poorer parts of the city where, for instance, fees for art classes are kept at around the $2 mark as schools attempt to accommodate students’ ability to pay, while in our richer city centre art fees average around $25. At this December consultation several parents who are struggling to cover the fees they are being charged offered their stories.
I applaud the Board for passing its new policy on Student Activity Fees and Student Course Cost fees. The new policy addresses concerns related to transparency and accountability that had been raised under the previous policy. This new policy; however, could be even stronger if an equity lens were applied.
I recognize that Ministry of Education has yet to complete its promised review of the funding formula, thereby addressing the ongoing underfunding of key benchmarks, which indirectly lead to a variety of inequitable student opportunities and outcomes. Some students and parents are unable to pay course fees and student activity fees, and some schools serve families who do not have the financial capacity to contribute to school budgets through school council fundraising.
We also know that it is the Ministry of Education and other key ministries who are responsible for the health and welfare of children and families in this province and that they must create an integrated funding and policy strategy to address the needs of the 'whole' child, particularly those most vulnerable. The new TDSB policy on fees; however, does not ensure equal educational opportunities across the city; instead it further stratifies our students. At the January 19th Program and School Services Committee, the ICAC addressed the committee to draw attention to these inequities and the impact fees have on our most vulnerable families, and to ask: what is the TDSB going to do to address equity in its schools?
I would urge the Toronto District School Board to support Trustee Laskin’s request for a staff report on the feasibility of implementing the following recommendations:
- Use funds from the LOG to offset all student fees to address the aforementioned inequitable opportunities experienced by our most vulnerable student populations, meaning mean elementary schools ranked 1- 150 on the LOI and 1 - 30 on the secondary LOI.
- Work with school boards, principals, parents, students, and staff to create a sensitive and respectful process for those students/families living in poverty to indicate hardship beyond baseline indices of poverty (i.e., for those students located in 'pockets of poverty').
By accepting these recommendations, you would be protecting our most vulnerable students and families from fees, while ensuring more equitable access to quality education.
I would encourage you to support this request at the February 9th Board Meeting.
With thanks and best wishes,