As state-wide budget cuts impact public schools, Parent Teacher Associations and education foundations in school districts across Florida and the U.S. are raising money to help meet the deficits.
Education Week reports this week that “in states and school districts still struggling to recover from recession-induced funding cuts, parent and community groups are feeling the pressure to raise money for instructional staff, academic programs, and other services that districts once fully paid for but can no longer afford.”
The Parent Teacher Associations are making important contributions to public schools but as Betsy Landers, the president of the National Parent Teacher Association, points out in Education Week, “‘Parent fundraising is a double-edged sword. It helps local schools, but it also gives an ‘out’ to decisionmakers when making cuts because parents can raise the difference. We’re caught in a conundrum: We can fund-raise to supplement education, but we shouldn’t be.’”
Education Week adds that, in Florida, “57 of the state’s 67 [K-12 school] districts have [education] foundations, which in total raised $41 million last year.”
According to the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, there are 60 local independent education foundations across the state, 55 of which are members of the Consortium, which invests “in programs not funded through tax dollars.” Over 70 percent of Florida’s education foundations board members are also local business leaders.
The Voice of Florida Business in Education, a Consortium partner, has 1,100 business leaders who sit on the boards of the state’s education foundations.
A Business in Education September 2011 survey (.pdf), conducted among 277 of those members, shows that ”most think public K-12 education in Florida is not adequately funded and that local school districts use current funding in an efficient manner.”
Survey participants added that school districts should explore cost-savings measures like “charging the community for using school district facilities such as rental fees for ball fields and gyms; outsourcing services like maintenance, transportation and security; having employees contribute toward their benefits; capping district overhead costs; and administrative personnel cutbacks.”
According to Education Week, Voice of Florida Business in Education “lobbies state officials on education policies it believes should be amended and supports initiatives that would encourage career pathways for students and bolster Florida’s economy.”
Despite their support for public education, the Florida PTA and the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations were at odds in 2010 over Amendment 8, which would have eliminated a 2002 constitutional amendment to limit class sizes in the state’s public school classrooms.
The Consortium supported the amendment, while the Florida PTA opposed the measure. Amendment 8 eventually failed at the polls.
According to Education Week, in the Tampa Bay area the Pinellas Education Foundation, “has raised more than $110 million since 1986 and $5 million last year alone,” and its board members “are advising district leaders on how to cut costs and operate more efficiently using best business practices.”