Deputation offered to the PSSC of the TDSB: Why I am concerned about fundraising in the schools
Deputation offered to the PSSC of the TDSB
February 23, 2011
Why I am concerned about fundraising in the schools
Fundraising in the schools contributes to the creation of “Have” and “Have-not” schools
Some schools raise $200k. Others raise $0 I wonder what a tour of schools at either extreme would reveal in terms of what differences you would find in the classrooms, library, gym, art supply cabinets, yard and playground. What about the before and after school activities and programs? What about lunchtime extracurriculars? What about field trips - how many, where? What about the participation rate in school council meetings? What topic consumes the most time at council meetings (at my school it is fundraising - which is why many parents don’t bother coming to council meetings - they don’t want to talk about fundraising) Find out if the children at school have a nutritious breakfast and lunch. Look at the EQAO scores. Find out what staff/teacher turnover is like in the 2 environments.
Are there differences? What are the differences? Are they significant? Do they impact student success? Can we live with them?
I would challenge school boards and the Ministry of Education to take these tours - or be scientific about it and do a study.
The goal of the study would be to find out the answers to these key questions:
- Do all classrooms and schools have all of the resources (equipment, supplies) that the Ministry of Education considers necessary to have available for all children?
o Are these supplies and resources in satisfactory condition and good working order?
- Are the resources and supplies that the Ministry names as necessary actually sufficient to ensure that teachers are able to deliver the curriculum and help students achieve success?
- If there is a significant difference, does the difference in availability of resources have an impact on rates of student success?
Then, for the most important part: After the study has been done, I would ask the board to be very frank, open and honest about the study’s results with all stakeholders - students, teachers, administrators, parents and the public - and make efforts to raise awareness about what they find out, and especially if we find out that there is a real disparity. We, as a society, will never be able to address a problem we aren’t aware that we have.
Fundraising lets governments off the hook for funding schools adequately
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - says that
- Ontario’s schools are funded at something like $10,000 per student. Schools in New York are funded at nearly double that
- Ontario ranks 46th out of all the US states and Canadian provinces and 9th out of 13 Canadian provinces/territories for spending per student
Link to press release (study summary): http://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/ontarios-school-funding-falling-behind-study
If parents step in and fill the gaps that are left by insufficient funding, we are telling the government that we are totally OK with the level of funding, that we are happy to take care of the cost of some things out of our pockets (despite the inequities it creates).
Some examples of items recently funded at my children’s school that perhaps should have been funded through ministry dollars rather than school fundraising dollars:
- Basketball hoops on out in the school’s play-yard (the poles and backboards had stood there for a long time with no hoops, so we used fundraised dollars to purchase hoops)
- Classroom reading materials
- Shelves for our school’s library
- A rug for a grade 1 classroom so that children could comfortably assemble on the floor for a reading circle (rather than sit on the linoleum tiles)
Here is another question I would ask the board to think about: If parents and other volunteers are freed from the burden of fundraising, what other ways could we put time and talents to use to support public education?
Perhaps parents could be mobilized to use their time and talents towards asking the government and/or other funders to bring Ontario’s per-student funding up to a level where it would better serve students, families, and ultimately communities and society.
Fundraising employs (dare I say exploits) children and families as a sales force. The most recent Financial Statements available for the TDSB (see page 6/24 of the pdf document, would show as page 4 if the document were printed) show $44 Million as revenue categorized as “School Fundrasing”. The most recent CRA Charity tax return for the TDSB (scroll to line 4500) shows that about $1.4M was the “total eligible amount of all gifts for which the charity issued tax receipts” Does that mean that the remaining 42M+ were not receiptable?
I think it is important to ask the TDSB to show us specifically how that $44 million was raised, and also (perhaps more importantly), what it was spent on.
SOLUTIONS I don’t know the answers, but I have a couple of ideas
I would ask the TDSB to revisit its mission statement. Right there, in black and white, it says that the TDSB values equity. If school boards truly want to achieve equity, it seems critical to me that we begin with this basic question:
What do we want every child to have access to in every school, no matter what kind of community they are in?
I think that we need to engage ALL constituents – school board trustees and staff, teachers, parents, students, the community at large – in finding the answer to that question. This will greatly help boards develop and articulate a vision for what is needed in the schools. Then we can go about the work of assessing what supports and supplies are in place and what is missing, and figure out ways to fill in the gaps so that every student gets access to what they need to learn.
We should not live forever with problems we can solve. Fundraising is only part of the solution. My concerns about fundraising in the TDSB would be greatly allayed if I could be assured that the board and individual schools and individual volunteer fundraisers in schools carried out fundraising activities in ways that align with the board’s values and mission statement, particularly the value of equity.
As it currently stands, fundraising happens in some 600 silos all over the city, and the result is that some schools have fat budgets and loads of advantages, and other schools have slim budgets and few advantages. I can’t help but think that this is not equitable, and it has GOT to be impacting student success. I call on the TDSB, among others, to take notice and do something about it.