01 October 2007

i'd rather we had bake sales

Now that we're a month into the kindergarten routine, I'm finally getting to used to it. I'm used to watching my kid climb aboard the bus without looking back, I'm used to checking the kindergarten calender every morning to see whether he needs to bring anything, I'm used to receiving the Friday Folder at the end of the week, filled with correspondence from the teacher, homework assignments, school newsletters, and notices from the PTA.

But some of these notices from the PTA have got me wondering. In the first month of school, I've gotten at least four letters from the PTA about fundraisers. Fundraisers! In kindergarten! I've also had two neighborhood kids come knocking at my door, selling things to raise money for school.

As a high school student involved in pretty much every club, group, or organization my school offered, I certainly did my share of fundraising. Selling candy bars to earn money for a band trip, selling holiday items to raise money to buy track and field sweatshirts, that sort of thing. I raised a lot of money to help fund my extra-curricular activities. But the latest letter from the PTA at James' school informs me that "these programs enable our school to obtain items for our children's use, such as classroom equipment, sports equipment and in some cases, funds for special projects". Sorry, what did you say? Classroom equipment??

What kills me (even more than the fact that our school does not, apparently, have adequate funding for classroom equipment) is that the fundraisers the PTA is urging us to participate in give us so little money back. The PTA letter says that last year, through programs with Campbell's Soup and General Mills, "we collected 7496 Campbell labels and received $706.70 from General Mills". If my math is correct (and it may not be -- my mental math skills are very much out of practice), that means a school earns less than ten cents per label. For every can of soup your family consume, Campbell's will give ten cents back to your school. How much is a can of soup these days? Three dollars? I really don't know, but in any case it doesn't seem that Campbell's is breaking the bank with school charity.

Even worse is the Target program the PTA is promoting. If you specify your school when making a purchase at Target, Target will give 1% of your purchase amount back to your school. ONE percent. If my math is correct (again, quite possibly not), I would have to spend one hundred dollars on worthless Target crap to give a dollar to James' school. Wow, Target, how generous. I can tell you're really concerned with the plight of education in this country.

You know, the ideal situation would be for schools to be adequately funded, from the local government level to the federal level, but if that's not possible, my next choice would be to give money directly to the school, rather than buy a bunch of junk in order to send a few pennies toward the school. And I do understand that there are people who buy a lot of stuff at Target already, or who eat a lot of Campbell's Soup, and that these programs are ways for those people to help out their kids' schools without putting in any extra effort. But it's still ridiculous that one of the primary ways of raising money for equipment and projects at our school is by asking parents to clip labels and UPC codes from our groceries.

Of course, I'm still going to send in the labels from our occasional cans of tomato soup, or the boxtops from our Kix cereal. But I'm going to do it grudgingly, cursing the forces that make this sort of thing necessary in the first place.


Emily said...

As a former teacher, I have a similar opinion about all these fundraisers. I would give my kids some catalog to take to their parents and all their parents' friends. They would buy stuff and the kids would bring it back to school. What does that teach kids about fundraising and working hard for a good cause? Absolutely nothing. What happened to car washes and bake sales (just like you said!) Pshaaaw!

karen said...

I, too, laughed at the 1% Target is willing to donate. True, it might not be such a bad deal if you shop at Target more than once a year, but I think the issue is a much larger one - definitely larger than 1% is going to fix. Unfortunately, changing mindsets about the value of education is a little harder to come by.

It makes me sad that students (kindergartners, no less) are having to fundraise just for classroom supplies. And I know there are plenty of teachers out there that shell out their own funds for their classes, also (case in point - how many instrument strings have I bought for student instruments this semester?). Anyways, the point I'm trying to make is that it's one thing to do some fundraising for the "extras" - the trips, the sports equipment and attire, etc., but it is something else entirely when the fundraising is for basic classroom supplies. *sigh*

On a happier note, glad you had so much fun camping, hope you are all well, and miss you!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't even get me started.....

Julie said...

Wow that's pretty incredible. I don't remember fund raisers until at least 4th grade...