Thursday, April 15, 2010

Auctions in American Public Schools

What seems well done in my little part of the world today?  Well the first thing that comes to mind is the Public School Auction that is about to take place here in Seattle this weekend and all over the country this spring. If some of you aren't aware of this mainly mom powered phenomenon, well I would like to share it with you today. So many invisible parent hours (probably 95% of it is moms) go into this type of of event, you would not believe it. 
 As a previous chairperson, I started to get a real feel for the expectation of a PTA for an underfunded urban public elementary school. The goal is to raise the bulk of the PTA budget at the auction, 80% of which is funding basic education staff needs. In fact I started to realize, through discussions with School District people that they actually count on these herculean efforts of parents to support these basic needs. Now this is all fine and good for our little middle class school that manages to raise between 80k and 100k at the auction, but who is funding the basic needs in the schools without 25 able moms with 1000 volunteer hours? Is the extra state money covering them? Do they have reading tutors and art programs?
The parents involved in our auction, procure 700 items from local businesses, use terrible computer programs to track them,    make invitations, make a truckload of signage for 700 items, get a venue, decorate venue, every child in the school participates in an art project for their classroom to be auctioned off, a parent from each class creates/frames said art project, the entire following week is spent processing credit cards and ironing out problems. 
I am writing this because the untold story of this type of behind the scenes love that parents are exhibiting for their kids instead of sitting home and doing homework with said child is a little disconcerting. What would happen if no one did an auction? Would the kids suffer? Would the state and feds start realizing the true poverty and underfunded state of the public schools? Would the real national education crisis show itself?  On the flip side, does this self funded type of situation make parents in charge of their budget so that they can fund what their school needs and be in control of the money? Is it , then, essentially a "charter" school under the radar? What will happen in Seattle Public Schools next year when they discontinue "choice" of school and you have to go to your neighborhood school? Will that bring about the equality they are hoping for or will the wealthy neighborhoods still have more than the poor ones because of their auctions? 

That all aside, I give my love today to all those parents(mainly women) who have traded cuddle time for auction time. You are heroes AND slaves in a terrible system.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I say "no more auctions!" Tax people based on their incomes and pay for basic education with state and federal taxes.
The auction creates a useless culture of consumption--I'm soooo done with it all!