Most parents raise, spend money for schools, poll finds

Posted: Wednesday, March 03, 2004

WASHINGTON The three-campus Capitol Hill Cluster School needed it all: paper, paint, ink cartridges, locker parts and those little metal glides to fix wobbly chairs.

Who raised the money? Parents, mainly.

Most of the $105,000 raised by the school's PTA this school year is going for classroom basics, a trend playing out nationwide, according to a poll of public school parents commissioned by the 6.2-million member National PTA.

Beyond fund-raising, the poll found, many parents are spending their money for teacher salaries, sports equipment, art supplies and other items schools used to cover.

''I don't recall my parents ever having to purchase what I consider essential items just to make a school run,'' said Suzanne Wells, vice president of the PTA at Capitol Hill Cluster School, where her son, Joshua, attends fifth grade.

Parents in her community, who are by no means wealthy, she said, raised money for the school with events from gift-wrapping to Capitol Hill home tours.

''This is not the answer,'' she said. ''Every school won't have parents who can do this.''

The PTA hopes the poll will help propel its election-year drive for greater education spending by elected leaders at all levels.

More than nine in 10 parents in the poll said that their political support is influenced by candidates' education stands.

And more parents chose spending as their top education concern over any other issue, including such choices as school crowding and teacher quality.

''Of course (parents) will do whatever it takes to help their schools. But fund raising is a Band-Aid, not a solution,'' said Linda Hodge, National PTA president and a parent of three children.

Education is traditionally a responsibility of state and local governments, which pick up about 90 percent of the cost and have seen their cash flows fall in recent poor economic times.

At a Washington news conference, PTA leaders pushed hardest for more funding support from federal officials, who are demanding more of schools than ever.

The No Child Left Behind Act orders states to make sure that schools make adequate yearly progress and that all students can read and do math at requisite grade levels by 2014, with a mix of help and sanctions for those that fall short.

The Bush administration says it is spending record levels on schools, particularly for poor and disabled children. Some parents say they don't see it.

''I have to wonder why a school system is so underfunded that it can't do its basic job,'' Wells said.

''I'm torn over what the right balance should be parents volunteering and contributing money versus having a school system that should be doing these basic things.''

Almost one-quarter of parents, 22 percent, said they were expected to participate in five or more fund-raisers a year; the same percentage, however, said one or zero fund-raisers a year was typical.

The rest of the parents polled, a majority, expected two to four such events.

The telephone poll of 800 public school parents, conducted between Jan. 19 and 21 by Ipsos-Public Affairs, has an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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On the Net:

National PTA: www.pta.org.



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