This school year, I’ve been busy serving on the fundraising board for Sammy and Ella’s elementary school. We finally finished the launch of our annual fund drive. In L.A., and I think many other public school systems in the U.S., if you want your child to have more than the basics, you have to pay something to help fund the school.
What did we ask this year? $2200 per child in order to raise $645,000.
Yeah. That’s a lot. It’s a lot to be asked to raise, and it’s a lot for a family with even one child, let alone two or three, to afford. We’re trying to get outside funds, but box tops only go so far. We don’t have reliable source for the budgetary needs, so we have to ask parents to pitch in.
Why so high? Being on the board this year has been an education for myself in how horribly underfunded our school systems are.
What will $645,000 buy?
Books, workbooks, paper, pencils, crayons and other school supplies. The way LAUSD works, or doesn’t work, is the principal has to put in the order for workbooks a full year early or you can’t get them. Being a new program without an established curriculum and changing to the Common Core standards means it’s pretty hard to choose workbooks in English a year in advance, let alone Mandarin, if they even exist.
Paper? Yep, LAUSD funds only so much. At many schools, copies are rationed to conserve the limited paper supply. Teachers are given an access card with so many copies on it each month and when it runs out they can’t make any more copies. That doesn’t work for our immersion program. Material just doesn’t exist (like workbooks) for purchase (a full year in advance), so the teachers have to make, and then copy, all their own material, homework, flashcards, study aids, even reading material.
What other crazy things are we trying to buy for our kids? Psychomotor classes, i.e. P.E. Currently they have PE once a week. Once. For that, which is outsourced to another provider as PE teachers apparently no longer exist, it costs $15000 a year. If we don’t raise it, our kids won’t even have 30 minutes of PE a week.
Teaching Assistants. Crazy, I know, to think kids in an immersion program might benefit from a teaching assistant. In the Mandarin side, the TAs speak Mandarin, which helps the kids acquire the language simply by being able to hear two adults speak. LAUSD provides only a few TAs to most schools. Title I schools get a few more than most. My sister in law is a principal at a large Title I school in LAUSD. They have 6 TAs for 850 kids, that’s roughly 32 classes. The TAs split their time between classes and grades. Last year, we were able to raise enough money to pay for 14 TAs (one for each class). That cost $191,000. For next year, the school will grow by 4 more classes, so we’ll need 18 TAs which will cost $240,000.
We need to have a school psychologist, part time. A program manager to facillitate testing and other things I don’t understand at $100,000.
These are such basic things we shouldn’t have to raise money for it. And what about less affluent schools, what do they do? Being that we colocate on one of those schools right now, I’ll tell you. They do without.
If we raise enough, we might be able to have super extravagant items like an art or music class once a week. We might even have a nurse or librarian. We don’t this year. They weren’t in the budget.
It makes me mad on so many levels.
It makes me mad that some parents don’t feel they should have to contribute anything to their child’s education. Sorry, if you want to see a truly public school in LAUSD, go to South Central. That’s what you get for nothing. (Even the school we co-locate on has funds from rent from a high school that is built on the school grounds. Which by the way, takes away the playing fields on campus.) I get it, $2200 is a lot of money. No one is trying to bankrupt anyone, but for God’s sake, don’t bitch to me about it and expect me to say you’re super special and of course, YOU’RE not expected to contribute. Since you’re so special. Just give what you can, but don’t expect me to believe that all you can afford is $20 for the whole year. I see you with your Starbucks every morning. You blow that in a month on coffee you could make at home for a lot less. What’s more important, your coffee or your child’s education?
It makes me mad at the school district. You may have heard, LAUSD is in the process of giving every single student in the district an iPad. Why? To help improve their education? To allow even the poorest students an opportunity to learn some technology? Nope. Turns out the Common Core testing is done on a computer and if you don’t know how to move things around like on an iPad, you can’t pass the test. So the iPads are for better test scores. And a waste of millions of dollars that could be spent on frivolous things like copy paper. Oh, and within a week of the first wave of roll outs, high school students hacked the firewalls and were able to facebook, check their email, and play games on the school iPads. Guess those kids probably already know their way around a computer enough to take a test on one.
It makes me mad at the government. Right now, that’s where most of my anger is directed. These idiots in Congress are up there reading Dr. Seuss (good job, my kindergartener can read that too), threatening to shut down the government, and if they do, they’ll still get paid to do nothing. In fact, as far as I can see, with all the partisanship, nothing is pretty much what they get paid to do all the time. Maybe when Congress shuts down or fails to reach a budget or fails to accomplish a darn thing, their salaries should be forfeit and feed into the education system.