Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bowling for Books and Other Tales of Raising Funds.

'Tis the season for many splendiferous events, including ones tied into fundraising. Yes, mailboxes overflow, telemarketers up the ante, evening door knocking intrusions increase........all for the sake of raising a buck for a cause. Everywhere you go in your own neck of the woods, you're bound to see tables of baked goods, 50-50 draws, raffles, concerts, dances, magazine drives, bottle drives, hot dog days, bingo nights, all advertising a "need" for money.

Schools are no exception. In fact, they seem to lead the way when it comes to local fundraising drives. And, it's getting out of hand. The expectations placed on families and their communities to raise cash every year has also raised questions and concerns about what the money is being used for, and whether the demographics in one area tips the balance in favour of or against providing equal services, supplies and opportunities for our children. There is also a sense that some of the money goes directly to paying for the basics around the schools that should most definately be covered under the School district budgets instead of for the "extras."

Last month, for example a small school in my vicinity announced a "Bowlerama for Books." Say what??? For books? YES! The families connected to this school had to take it upon themselves to raise money to buy books for their children's classrooms. The story, which was given positive air time on the local radio stations to promote it, described the nattered old books that were being used to teach the kids, and how there wasn't money in the district budget to replace them. Are books not a teaching staple? Why didn't the radio journalist ask some questions about this? That should not have been a feel good should've been a "What's up with having to do that story".....a "Where's the government money to cover the basics in our school" story.

The is a gulf of disparity from one school to another when it comes to extra money flowing into through the doors, and it all stems from the demographic make-up of the area. Though there is a $$$$'s per kid quota which on the surface make the system seem balanced and equal, it truly isn't. And the huge problem with this is that the districts count on these funds as part of their budget. The Home and School Committees across the land have done such a fine job pulling money in that they have unknowingly paid the bills on items that used to be paid for by the government. The items have slid off the budget on the Principal's desk and onto the laps of mom and pop.

Books.....Teacher supplies.......bus fares for curriculum related trips.... musical instruments ....basic gym issued pea gravel for the playgrounds.......on and on and on.

The school that I happened to be attached to is able to raise money coming out of the rafters every year, mostly because of the many families who have more disposable income than most and are able to support all fund raising causes. In the past 5 years alone, over $125,000.00 has been raised, and only one quarter of that was corporate donations. That's a lot of steamed tube steaks, I must say! It has been an unusual set of circumstances, because 2/3 of it was for much needed improvements to the playground (I still have to ask........why has that fallen on the laps of the parents?). But every year, the school pulls out all stops to run an annual Christmas Bonanza event that raises more than 10 grand, the majority of which covers the costs of items that should not be the families' responsibilities.

I fear it's too late to turn things around. Budgets have been cut to the bone. Gone are PhysEd teachers, counsellors, full-time Music teachers, most of the Admin staff. and a lot of support staff. Gone are the days when there was a supply room filled with supplies. Heck, the district even closed shop on the Media lending library, packed all the stuff in boxes and placed it in the basement of the local high school. The teachers try to manage with what they are provided and sometimes with what they have purchased out of their own pocket. It's surprising how much the average teacher spends on supplies doled out to their students...........

In the meantime, I find myself up to my eyeballs in organizing the next fundraising event. But this year, I'm voicing my opinion on how the money will be spent. It's time to draw the line!

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