Public schools turn to the private sector and parents for financial support

Posted: April 21, 2008 in 1

California public schools seek private money just to cover the basics

By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

[excerpted]

“Parents in well-to-do communities can raise significant sums of money to augment their local schools’ budgets, while schools in low-income neighborhoods fall further behind,” said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. “This is part of the reason that we have an achievement gap in California. We have an economic and moral imperative to close this gap.”

In the Anaheim City School District, four of every five students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, a poverty indicator. A district volunteer-led foundation raises about $50,000 annually through employee contributions and fundraisers to send all sixth-graders to overnight science camp in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The Anaheim parents are never asked to do more than volunteer for small fundraisers, such as bake sales or selling gift wrap or entertainment books.

“It’s not even a consideration to be able to ask them for money,” said district spokeswoman Suzi Brown. “When we look at what other districts are doing, they’ve got foundations that have paid staff. We don’t compete with that at all. We are in a completely different league.”

David Long, California’s education secretary, acknowledged the inequity but said money from nonprofit organizations and federal funds earmarked for poorer schools help level the playing field somewhat. However, he said the only way to fix the state’s finances is for the Legislature to approve Schwarzenegger’s budget stabilization act, which would put away surplus revenue during economic booms for use in leaner times.

“We do not want to continue to have these conversations” about cuts, he said. “It’s hurtful for the children of California.” (more…)

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While I agree with David Long’s approach, I think that it is nothing more than a pipe dream to expect government to govern itself in times of economic prosperity.

It is going to be interesting to see just how much the public school system begins to rely more on the private sector during this economic season.

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