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Should Schools Be in the Fundraising Business?

Almost exactly a year ago, we had our first fundraising discussion. The Sally Foster packets had arrived -- as they did again a couple weeks ago in my house. This year, though, it's not the PTA fundraisers that have me up in arms -- it's the one sponsored directly by the school: Sell cookie dough and the school's principal gets a chunk of cash to spend directly on school needs without consulting parents.

Like any other parent, I "get" the fact that school budgets are tight. I know they want and need to pay for more than budgets will allow. And I recognize that they're looking ahead to even tighter budgets next year. In counties throughout the Washington area, parents are being hit up for fees to cover lots of school expenses, Daniel de Vise wrote in August. Pay up if you want your child to have workbooks, computer supplies, paintbrushes and gym suits. Does your child need a locker? A sports uniform? Or a parking space? Expect those to cost you.

But back to that darned cookie dough. The kids lost class time at an assembly telling them to sell the stuff that surely can't be helping our national obesity epidemic. And kids who sell a certain amount of dough get prizes that others won't receive. If we oppose the cookie dough sale, we have an out that still allows us to contribute -- write a check directly to the school.

For now, I'm compiling a list of healthy fundraisers to present to the school. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has an amazing list, including walk-a-thons and fun runs; Scrip or Schoolpop cards; sales of non-food products such as toys, jewelry, coupon books and magazine subscriptions; and silent auctions. I've heard of very successful dance-a-thons in which the dances were held in the school gym for an hour at the end of the school day.

Still, even while pulling all the information together, a question keeps gnawing inside: Should public schools (not PTAs, mind you, but the schools themselves) be in the business of fundraising to support their needs?

How many of you have faced such school-sponsored fundraisers? Are you seeing more of them in this tight economy? What fundraisers do you support and which ones do you oppose? What other types of school fees and fundraisers are eating away at your income?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  October 3, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Family Finances , Tweens
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Comments


Lots of different questions/issues here.

First, should the schools vs the PTA be in the fundraising business? I'm not sure I really see much difference. Wait until your kids are in high school. We deal with fundraisers for the band, for the chorus, for the athletic teams (so they can buy team sweatshirts), for the Sophomore class, etc. You can sort of get an idea of what the money for each particular fundraiser is going to be spent on, but in practice there's not a lot of difference to me between "all the fundraisers are run by the PTA and they dole out the money" and "each activity runs its own fundraiser with school approval/monitoring."

Second, "healthy" fundraisers. That's a good question, but the bottom line is that schools/organizations will conduct the fundraisers that give them the best return with the least effort. If you can do that with something "healthy", go for it. If the cookie dough is more profitable, you can bet the schools will go that way. So if you're going to give the schools alternative fundraising ideas, make sure you have the numbers on how much they can expect to make and how much effort it's going to be. Otherwise they'll listen politely and then file your suggestions - most likely in a "circular file" if you know what I mean.

Third - writing a check is often the best way to contribute to a fundraiser. My in-laws have twelve grandkids in four states; they don't want to order giftwrap or magazine subscriptions from all of them. They just ask who to make the check out to, and send 10 or 20 dollars to each.

Last - an anecdote about the type of fundraisers you might have in your future. Oldest DD played on the high school volleyball team. They held a carwash on a Saturday morning as their fundraiser. The girls were told to wear swimsuits under shorts and t-shirts; reasonable for a car wash. After about half an hour, the (female) coach told all the girls to take their shirts off; they'd raise more money that way. They did raise a lot of money, but as a father I think I'd prefer the darned cookie dough to that!

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 3, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Should schools be in the fundraising business? To me, the real question is - should students be REQUIRED to participate in fundraising? And I think the answer is an emphatic NO. Students shouldn't be penalized in any way for not participating, but they often are. Do I think it is appropriate for a second-grader to see a child in his class get some prize for selling the most, when his dad is CEO at some company and can take the order sheet to work and have it filled in? Should another child from a family that is having trouble making ends meet, have to go home and hit up his parents for money?

That's what bugs me the most about this. Those that make the decisions about fundraising often fail to realize that not every child's situation is the same as theirs.

Posted by: jjtwo | October 3, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I hate all the selling junk that none of us need. Not once has anyone ever come to the door with anything useful.

In high school we raised money for our school trips by delivering phone books. The phone companies pay x amount per book and you get a couple of kids running from the back of a slowly moving mini-van and a lot of books get delivered.

Car washes and dog washes also seem like good ways to go. To me, getting money for PROVIDING A SERVICE is a much better lesson than selling junk to people who already have too much junk or who can't afford it.

Posted by: em15 | October 3, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

fr ArmyBrat1:

>...The girls were told to wear swimsuits under shorts and t-shirts; reasonable for a car wash. After about half an hour, the (female) coach told all the girls to take their shirts off; they'd raise more money that way. They did raise a lot of money, but as a father I think I'd prefer the darned cookie dough to that!

Were I a parent, that coach would have been reported to the principal the very next day. My DW and I will NOTpatronize car washes where they have young girls in VERY skimpy bathing suits waving their stupid HUGE signs in the middle of the road, as it teaches them that it's ok to be ogled, leered at, and subsequently possibly raped.

Posted by: Alex511 | October 3, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I prefer the direct route. A couple of years ago, our PTA looked at their budget and suggested that parents write a check for $60. The check is voluntary and in addition to the PTA membership fee of $20. They knew they would not get all the parents on board but they got enough of us to get rid of all the painful fundraisers. They only kept the ones the kids enjoyed-- like the book fair. It's also anonymous. If you don't pay, no one comes looking for you and you can choose just PTA membership if you want. And the PTA has always written one check to the principal to distribute to the teachers. Some might call it too calculated but it works for me.

Posted by: maryland5 | October 3, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I am a parent of three children, now all in college - paid for by some help from the whole family and loans.

My answer is No. No fundraisers directly from the school and I have issues with children forced into sales-oriented and competitive fundraising in general. From a child and parent point of view it is hair splitting whether the source is the school or the PTO. And then there are the sports teams and youth clubs raising money. Multiply by the number of children in the family. It's a pile on for kids and parents. There is a huge pressure on kids from the school, teachers, and peers. Kids don't need that. Parents don't need that. As one commenter noted - one child has parents that have the resources to help their child raise money, while other parents in the same school do not.

What to do since schools need money: 1) yes, it's easy for the school to sell cookie dough, but that doesn't mean it should be done. 2) the PTO, or another fund raising body the school creates, should clearly state what the money will be spent on, do direct mail donation requests and organize fund raising events instead (themed dances, rummage sales, walk-a-thons, silent auctions, etc). Yes it is harder, but this is where a school can get volunteers from the wider, non-child community as well as parents involved and raise more money. This allows families to choose to pay not to mention encouraging family/community events that fit well the individual community. The concept is hard to get off the ground, but once in place it has a life of its own.

Schools should take a hard look at what can be scaled back to free up the capability of parents to donate. Do we need dinners at restaurants to hand out sports awards? Do we need proms at fancy hotels with limo service? Do parents need to pay for unique, sometimes expensive, supplies for every teacher's unique desires instead of a standard set that can be used for all classes? Do we need a gym official uniform instead of a requirement for basic color and style a parent can shop for on their own? Taking away the burden of other school costs enables a parent to feel more generous with a general donation.

Posted by: talley3 | October 3, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

When I was in middle school, the students sold magazine subscriptions for a fund raiser. The contracting company that was chosen to process the magizine orders was so cheap that instead of designing a new advertisement pamplet appropriate for kids, they used the old design and just red-lined out the sections for Playboy and Penthouse. The words "Entertainment for men..." were visible, but had a red line printed through them.

Unfortunately, not all students got the kids version of the order form and pamplet.

Great! Nothing like the school having kids push porn for a prophit. Let me tell you, after the parents found out about the glich, that year's fundraiser went over about as well as a busted condom!

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | October 3, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

My daughter has already had two fundraisers this year already for her public school. I forgot what the first one was for. The second was for giftwrap. I didn't participate in either. I did order some Scholastic books (that's supposed to earn some books for the class). It seems like there will be a fundraiser each month at this rate. My thoguht on that is, wait a minute now, I thought I got away from monthly fundraisers when I pulled my daughter from the private school she was attending. That private school was nickel and dime city; during student holiday performance (held in the church sanctuary) the school would "pass the plate."

My son's school has a couple of fundraisers too. Because his school doesn't bother me as much, I feel more inclined to participate in his. One or two fundraisers per child per year seems like a good guideline to follow.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 3, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I'm now going to officially consider myself lucky. My daughter's school has relatively few fundraisers and none involve food. There's the annual Fun Run in the fall, and the school has some fun tying that to geography lessons, as each class represents a different country, and the students are required to research the country (at a grade-appropriate level) as a part of the Run. Like most areas, we can tie our frequent-shopper cards to a specific school. I really don't shop much at large groceries as I try to support locally produced food; but I even find myself at the local Harris Teeter weekly for TP, or various spices, or cleaning supplies, or whatever. Pretty painless to have the store donate to the school based on my purchases. Finally, the only "selling an object" that I can think of is the sale of student artwork. Each fall, each student completes a piece of art that can be printed on coffee mugs, mouse pads, magnets, etc. Then each student brings home an order form for the art. I LOVE this fund raiser because OrganicKid decides what to get for each grandparent and aunt/uncle from this fundraiser.

If I remember correctly, both the Fun Run and the art sales are through the PTA. The school doesn't have separate fund raisers. But, with that said, skyrocketing property taxes SHOULD be covering our schools! We have a 5-acre parcel that is unbuildable (doesn't perk, and in a partially in protected wetlands) on our farm, and our taxes went up on it 185% this year. Gotta love the taxes/McMansions being built in rural areas in North Carolina!

Posted by: OrganicGal1 | October 3, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Oh, wow...I've got to start proof reading! That should be "(doesn't perk, and partially in a protected wetlands area)..."

If Grammar Police person is out there today, be gentle!

Posted by: OrganicGal1 | October 3, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Argh, this drives me nuts. I'm fine if they want to do fundraisers that are fun -- like this weekend's fall festival, with games and prizes and such, where the parents do all the work, and people can come and have fun. But I hate the selling crap. I'm not going to send my kid up and down the street, and I'm not going to inundate my coworkers with it. With multiple kids and multiple places, it adds up to be just ridiculous; so far this year, my daughter has had a wrapping paper sale, the fall festival, and a silent auction for her school, a Claire's gourmet thing and a request for donations for her after-care, another flyer for her after-care that I didn't even read; and my son's daycare is now doing a week-long series of fundraisers for Make-A-Wish (which I don't mind so much). Plus, of course, the obligatory school pictures, which all cost ridiculous amounts of money. And the mandatory supply list, which was $30. All of it piled on top of having to buy new clothes for fall/winter. It's just a lot all at once.

I don't mind my daughter's public school stuff so much; I know their budgets are tight, and to give them credit, the PTO does only a few big fundraisers a year (I just wish they weren't so close together). But I do mind that the places I am paying for seem to be constantly asking me for money. If you're doing it for charity, I'll help; I'll do the Make-a-Wish thing, we do the Christmas present trees every year, etc. But it seems to me that, if you charge people tuition to go there, then that tuition should cover your costs, and you shouldn't have to ask your kids to go out and shill for you in their spare time. Especially when the school only gets half the money -- my kid will not be unpaid labor for some big corporation.

I also really, really hate the prizes. If I let my kid do one of these things, I want her to learn about community, responsibility, charity, etc. Not "if I sell the most crap I can get an iPod!" The worst was the big prize table her old school had for the hop-a-thon. She was 4, and SO proud of how well she'd done hopping, had ogled the table for weeks -- and then came home in tears after watching all the other kids getting to choose all these great prizes, while she just got a leftover because Mommy didn't fork over enough dough (they chose in order of amount pledged; even though I gave enough to get her a prize, she was still at the end, so she got to watch all the cool stuff she wanted get chosen by others). "Voluntary" my a**. Maybe when they're 9, 10, 11, they're old enough to understand and decide whether to participate, but not at 4 or 5.

Posted by: laura33 | October 3, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I hate fundraisers. I think the PTA is a useless organization that over time has just evolved into a way for SAHM to validate their existence.

Note to SAHMs in the PTA, we hate you. If you want to bother people, organize fundraisers, and feel important, get a job already.

Posted by: blahblah111 | October 3, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

"She was 4, and SO proud of how well she'd done hopping, had ogled the table for weeks...."

Exactly! We had the same thing happen when I was in school. A special needs kid had a break down because he didn't win anything. His family was poor and couldn't afford to buy anything.

Posted by: blahblah111 | October 3, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Laura; "I'm fine if they want to do fundraisers that are fun -- like this weekend's fall festival..."

My problem with the fun fairs/fall festivals is with the duck pond, grab bag, roulette wheel, Bingo, ring toss, and cake walk is that it seems to me like school is trying to teach kids that gambling is fun.

What next? Root beer, bubblegum chewing tobacco and candied cigaretts?

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | October 3, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

YES! My daughter learned alot from those experiences. work ethic, industriouseness, overcoming fear, ...

One time she worked her "bottom" off because she believed there was a prize for the most sales. All she got was a "Thank you", but the disappointment gave Mom and Dad a teachable moment (don't trust advertising, check the details).

Yeah, if I had my druthers, there would be no kids knocking on my door, but IT'S NOT ABOUT ME.

Posted by: MSchafer | October 3, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

First of all, I absolutely hate fundraisers. I did it often enough growing up, and as a teacher I struggle with constantly keeping up with the money and paperwork.
However, as a music teacher and choir director at a 5th/6th grade school, we are in dire need of new instruments, new sound equipment and lighting equipment for our stage, and other supplies that our district cannot supply us with.
This year, I am aiming for fundraisers that will involve more of the community while avoiding the pitfalls of having students deal with money. I have two fundraisers planned - the first is a "Variety Show", and the second is through Five Below.
The Variety show will take staff and student acts (singing, dancing, acting) and put them all on stage. Our hope is to get the school community together for a good time where we can let our hair down.
The Five Below fundraiser - which is insanely easy - involves sending flyers out to parents. On a designated day or weekend (ours is Black Friday weekend), anyone who makes a purchase at Five Below will have 10% of their purchase donated to the school.
I've never done either before, but I'm hoping that they will be fun, easy, and will have everyone feeling better when it's done.

Posted by: plcrisostomo | October 3, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I like the direct donation-PTA memebership plus a donation that's fully tax deductible. Elementary was $25, High School $40. My issue is the booster clubs at High School. Mine has band, sports, drama and the speciality center. All require additional "membership" fees plus money & time. However, just regular fees are worse. Back to school supplies, fees etc. were $125. On-going fees for a regular band class so far are: $200 for the tux, $37 for a new mouth piece, $27 for a book, $60 for a tuner and metronome and $25 per week for "highly suggested" private lessons. What happened to just learning an instrument for fun and not concentrating on which kid or band is going to win a tropy or an invitational. We have gone way beyond what is reasonable.

Posted by: mpie | October 3, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I'm in the camp with those who hate fundraisers. This year the entire middle school seems completely focused on fundraising because transportation costs have hit their field trip budget so hard.
But younger DD had a PTO fundraiser last year at the elementary school that actually was a fabulous idea. The kids each painted a picture and you could buy a copy of that picture on a mug, potholder, magnet, mouse pad etc etc so the kids had something to give relatives for the holidays. I loved that.
But otherwise I'm sick to death of fundraisers that peddle useless crap.

Posted by: annenh | October 3, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

the pta at my son's school put out a notice that said we spend X dollars per student every year. i wrote a check for x+5 for the pta. that is the extent of the fund raising i will do for the school. oh, we'll go to the harvest fest & other things but those are fun. i don't hit up friends or co-workers for gift wrap or anything else.

Posted by: quark2 | October 3, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

My beef is that they use school time to promote them. I also question how effective they are compared to just asking for parents to pay.

I say this because of my experience with Scout fund raising. The cubs sold popcorn. We generated plenty of gross, but by the time the costs came out we didn't really make that much. If everybody had donated about half of what the product cost we would have been about the same -- without a lot of effort.

Yes, there are neighborhoods in need where parents don't have the extra monies. I don't have an answer there.

Posted by: RedBird27 | October 3, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Why not pool school supply purchasing. Eliminate all the individual shopping trips (gas) and let the PTA organize bulk buys and delivery direct to the school. Seems there would be $10-20 'profit' per kid -- and it provides a worthwile service for parents.... seems obvious.

Sally Foster is like crack. They pay out very well. Schools get addicted. I look at this as child labor selling a rip-off product that generally just goes straight to the landfill. What kind of message is it to spend so much money on the wrapping paper of a gift. This simply reinforces our material, throw-away consumerism... on the backs of child labor. I won't even go into the crap prizes that are thrown out within a week...

Can't all this fundraising energy be channeled in a more positive, academic way?

BTW. We have 4 kids age 5-10.

Posted by: David_in_MI | October 3, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

We just got the Claire's flyer last week. From my 20 month old's very expensive daycare. Where I pay full tuition. I do love to buy the books from Scholastic. I have a list of books I want, and if any pop up in that month's rotation, I buy them and a few others. I'm shameless about buying books. It's pretty much the only thing I'm frivolous about. I also love the wrapping paper because it's such good quality, and I hate when paper tears on the corners of gifts. The food? Trinkets? Jewelry? No, thanks. I'd still rather bypass it all for a fair or show or pay a kid to mow the lawn or wash the car or babysit to raise funds.

As far as my kid selling crap, she's not going to do so well. I work in the government, where it's prohibited (and enforced) that we can't sell stuff, my husband is self-employed, and I can't really envision our free time knocking on doors.

Posted by: atb2 | October 3, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I am on the fund raising committee for the PTA of my children's private school, and I find some of the feedback and suggestions very useful. I am going to bring up some of these ideas at our next meeting, thank you.

To the person who thinks the private school tuition should cover everything without having fund raisers, I used to think that too, until I got more involved with volunteering. Sadly, the [astronomical] amounts we pay don't even cover 3/4 of the school's expenses for each child.

Talk to the administration, as I did: ask them, why are you wasting the measly $25 I scrimped to give to the annual fund on more mass mailings? Believe me, they will be happy to explain their position, and it will change the way you think.

No one likes soliciting more money and no one likes giving it, but our children's schools would be very different places without those willing to do both.

Posted by: Annapolis1 | October 3, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Wow! I've seen the occassional 'sell this junk' fundraiser come home, and mostly ignored them. The one time I brought something in to my office - we aren't allowed to solicit on work-time, just leave the stuff in the kitchen/break area - I got exactly one person (besides me) who ordered something, and it was such a headache! I had to pay for her order, then I had to track her down (there's about 500 people who share the break area, so there's no way that I know everyone) and get her to pay me. Never did that again!

The fundraiser that our elementary school PTA did which our family absolutely loved, and also has been the biggest moneymaker, is an annual talent show. Half a dozen parent volunteers work their behinds off with the 30-50 kids who sign up to perform each year. After 6-8 weeks of rehearsals, the kids put on a *great* show! They have a wonderful time! The audience has a ball, too, with huge extended families showing up (paying admissions, buying raffle tickets for prizes donated by local merchants, and buying food and drinks that are donated by families). DH runs the PA, finds karioke versions of the pop-tunes kids want to sing, and teaches them basic microphone technique (vocal or instrumental) and stage etiquette.

After six years of doing talent shows, younger son is a middle schooler. But I think DH and I will still volunteer for our former elementary school's talent show because it's just so much fun - both to watch the final performance, and to watch the kids start out timid and hesitant, and then support each other and get more comfortable in front of an audience, and then bloom.

Posted by: SueMc | October 3, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

To mpie, who asked @ 11:53: "What happened to just learning an instrument for fun and not concentrating on which kid or band is going to win a tropy or an invitational."

Would you ask the high school football coach "what happened to just playing sports for fun and not concentrating on which team is going to win the district championship?" You'll get approximately the same answer from the band director.

And it gets worse if a number of the kids at that high school are planning on playing in bands at college - our daughters' school has a top-notch marching unit and a number of the kids play in, e.g., the marching band at some pretty good universities. Those kids WANT more from the high school band to prepare them for college, just as the football players who want to play in college WANT more from their high school programs to compare them.

Elementary school, when everybody is learning - okay, that's different. But by high school, it's as competitive as a sports team and requires as much time, money and effort.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 3, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

"No one likes soliciting more money and no one likes giving it, but our children's schools would be very different places without those willing to do both."

Yes, without those PTA moms the schools would fall away to dusty walls and broken play grounds. Yep, I am not buying it.

Posted by: blahblah111 | October 3, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I have three kids in grade school, and I have no use for fundraisers or the PTA.

Our PTA built a bench and nothing else that I know of. Science materials? No. Library books? No. Study workbooks? No.

If the schools are poorly funded then the school board, community leaders, parents, and citizens need to get off their asses and get measures passed to properly fund the schools and invest in the kids.

Fundraisers should be used for funding puffery (e.g., dance decorations), and involvement limited to those who are interested (I have no issue whatsoever with those who enjoy these things--they're fun).

But whenever there is a fundraiser for something necessary then we as parents should be embarassed by our community's/school's priorities.

Posted by: asdf4 | October 3, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

"Elementary school, when everybody is learning - okay, that's different. But by high school, it's as competitive as a sports team and requires as much time, money and effort."


surely, you jest.

Posted by: blahblah111 | October 3, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

"surely, you jest."

No, not at all. (And please don't call me Shirley. :-)

Got a kid in a high school band? Are they going to parades in other states? Go to competitions in Florida, New York, etc?

Do they spend 2-3 hours a day, 5 days a week, practicing; then performing at every home football game?

Do they spend most of the summer practicing, by themselves; in small groups; as a unit; and at camps? (This one time, at band camp... :-)

Seriously - it's a huge time and money commitment.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 3, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

It's a shame that some PTAs have funded only a bench, or that that's what the parents think. Either the PTA isn't doing much or it's not communicating well with the parents, both of which are sad.

I can only speak for my own children's private school, where the funds raised by the PTA are mostly given to the school to supplement teacher salaries, provide for classroom needs (including musical, art, and athletic supplies), pay for groundskeeping, maintenance and further development, provide professional develoment, financial aid, and so on.

The amount the PTA gave the school last year was around $25,000.

Posted by: Annapolis1 | October 3, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Oh one other great fundraiser we enjoyed at DD's elementary school and it was really (relatively) easy to organize. A family dance in the school gym.
They hired a DJ, dug up some lights and decorations. You brought your kids (any age) and danced together (grown-ups had the options of watching from the sidelines). Kids could run off and dance with their friends but a surprising number enjoyed boogying with their parents and siblings. I, of course, had no shame and danced my heart out. My middle schooler would never tolerate such behavior from me in a public venue now!

Posted by: annenh | October 3, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Neither schools nor PTAs should have fundraisers. The purpose of a PTA is to advocate for the education of children, and the modest dues that PTAs charge should be sufficient to cover the costs of the advocacy function. Schools receive money from taxes, and if they aren't receiving enough from taxes, then the school districts need to go back to the politicians and the voters to get what they need. All fundraisers do is contribute toward inequality in public education because schools in wealthier areas are able raise more funds than schools in areas with less fortunate people.

Posted by: postisarag | October 3, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

How about everyone support their school with the BoxTops for Education program, Campbells Labels for Education, and the affinity cards programs (Giant and Safeway).

BoxTops returns cash to the school, Campbells gives equipment, Giant and Safeway give cash.

No selling, just some paperwork and shipping of labels (Campbells and BoxTops). No door to door at all!

Decent amount of cash for relatively little effort if lots of people participate.

Posted by: robinWL | October 3, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

To those (postisarag, others) saying that there should be no fundraisers; schools should just go back and get all the money they need from taxes: that's a lovely thought (?) but it ain't gonna happen.

First, in this day and age few people are clamoring to pay MORE taxes, even in a state as "blue" as MD. Second, a lot of the things that the fundraisers pay for are the things that might not be absolutely necessary for a basic education, but they do a lot to enhance an education. Thus a lot of taxpayers/legislative bodies don't want to force all taxpayers to fund them.

Examples? New band uniforms - you don't HAVE to have them, but as I noted above, if you have kids who want to pursue bands/music in college, a better high school band helps. New mouthpieces for musical instruments - these are generally NOT shared among students; they're personal. So the kids/families have to pay for them.

Other examples? Books beyond the bare minimum needed/allocated; new computers/calculators/electronic equipment beyond the bare minimum; scoreboards and fences for the baseball/football field; etc. Strictly speaking you don't HAVE to have them, but it's much nicer if you do. So the taxpayers tend not to fund them, but the schools understand the value and thus raise funds to pay for them.

And yes, this does tend to create differences in education between richer schools/districts and poorer ones; Texas' "Robin Hood" school funding law thus only allows a few fundraisers to escape the total amount of funds that count towards your allowable expenditures.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 3, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Annapolis1, what I think is a shame is that the PTA at your school needed to supplement the teacher salaries and provid classroom supplies, etc. If teacher salaries and school supplies were priorities, why did the PTA have to supplement? Because the community/school district/whatever did not fully invest what was necessary in educating the kids.

We are responsible to see this is done. I don't use BoxTops to pay my mortgage, and I'm not going to finance my kids' education with fundraisers. It is too important for all that nonsense.

Posted by: asdf4 | October 3, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

asdf4, I'm sorry I don't completely understand the question. I think you are asking why the community/school district is not funding the school adequately so that it is not necessary for the PTA to supplement--is that right?

You're right when you say that it's we parents who are responsible for seeing to it that our children get a good education. That's why in our family we make the sacrifice to send our children to a private school. Tuition is around $20,000 a year per child, and funds raised by the school's Annual Fund, which in turn is supported by funds raised by the PTA, are used to supplement teacher salaries, classroom supplies, etc.

As someone else said here, it would be ideal if a good and equal education was available free to all, but it's not. So we in the PTA keep having fundraisers.

Posted by: Annapolis1 | October 3, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Annapolis1,

Fundraisers are akin to charity. I understand you're proud of what you and the PTA have contributed to the school in the in the interest of the kids. We disagree not on motivation but method. I don't believe in passing the hat to fund crucial items.

If your school needs the extra funds supplied by the PTA then I can promise you this: at $20K/student there should be globs of money for teacher salaries and school supplies. If there isn't then the money is going other places--reflecting different priorities.

The question is not Is this necessary? but rather Why is this necessary? The first question leads you to conduct a fundraiser. The second leads you to (hopefully) identifying and correcting a fundamental problem.

Posted by: asdf4 | October 3, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter to me what we think about fundraisers; they're simply a way to get more money to the school. And while it does sound like 20K per student tuition should mean that there are "globs" of money, the fact is that it costs much more to give a child a good, let alone excellent, education.

The specifics for each county and city are available on the county schools' websites and on the websites of the private schools as well. I believe the American Association of Independent Schools website also maintains statistics.

Posted by: Annapolis1 | October 3, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

"it will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and the pentagon has to hold a bake sale to buy a new bomber"
-seen on bumperstickers

It's all well and fine to say, "the school should pay for everything without needing fundraisers." I live in Oakland, and OUSD has been under state control for five years. The state administrator (our 3rd one) reports to the CA state director of education, not to the school board, or the people/voters of Oakland. The administrator doesn't have to listen or respond to families and parents - the job of state administrator is to repay the state the money that was borrowed in '03 when the district failed.

Our schools don't have what they need. We tried to replace the elected official in Sacramento, but there aren't enough people in Oakland (never mind enough politically active parents) to influence a state-wide election. So, what do we do, what *can* we do, to insure our children are getting a decent education?

School fundraisers is about all we've got. Yes, my kids' schools have field trips, libraries (with real books in them), computers, music, etc. because of parent organizations paying for those things. But a *lot* of Oakland schools are in poor neighborhoods and don't have those basic needs met, some don't even have enough text books for all their students.

You can repeat ad nauseum that the school district *should* pay, and I agree, but it's not happening. Are you still sure that we parents *should* stop funding what our kids need? And then what? Let *all* the school children become uneducated, unemployable adults forever dependent on welfare and food stamps - because we parents were sitting on our hands waiting for the government to do its job.

I can't do that. And I can't respect any parent - any person - who would choose that course of inaction. It's just *wrong*.

Posted by: SueMc | October 3, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

"Pay up if you want your child to have workbooks, computer supplies, paintbrushes and gym suits. Does your child need a locker? A sports uniform? Or a parking space? Expect those to cost you."

No, don't EXPECT items relating to curriculum to cost you a thing in Maryland public schools. In Maryland these items do not cost parents anything. In Maryland, students are provided a free public education and all textbooks and materials of instruction are provided. And that is the way it is in the vast majority of Maryland public schools - with Montgomery County Public Schools ignoring state law. In Maryland, if an item is curriculum related a school system cannot charge a fee.

We know from previous Post articles on MCPS school audits that cash at the local school is often used for non-student purposes. Even though the money goes into "student activity accounts", the money is used for teacher clothing, food, etc...The Post reported on a number of these audits in their story on Sept 20, 2007, Opening the Books on Accounting Oddities.

In MCPS the money collected in Curricular Fees does NOT flow back into the systems Operating Budget. So what is the money used for? Good question. The schools already receive textbooks and materials budgets. Why are the schools charging parents for items that have already been funded? And that should be the first question when any fundraiser is suggested. Far more important than the TYPE of fundraiser is WHERE the profits from that fundraiser will go. Who will be accountable for how the funds are used? Who will be exercising oversight over the funds? IF a Maryland principal claims a curriculum related need, then the local budget allocation should be public and parents should be advocating for funding. (Note MCPS has now removed local school budget funding information from their web site.)

As an example, what is a "locker fee" and why should anyone EVER pay that? The lockers were built into the school and no one is being billed for their existence. When the local school "charges" a fee for a locker there is no cost associated with that item, so what is the money really for?

Let's get to the bottom line on schools fundraising for themselves first, before debating the type of fundraiser: What is the money used for and who is overseeing its use?

Posted by: jzsartucci | October 3, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

"Pay up if you want your child to have workbooks, computer supplies, paintbrushes and gym suits. Does your child need a locker? A sports uniform? Or a parking space? Expect those to cost you."

No, don't EXPECT items relating to curriculum to cost you a thing in Maryland public schools. In Maryland these items do not cost parents anything. In Maryland, students are provided a free public education and all textbooks and materials of instruction are provided. And that is the way it is in the vast majority of Maryland public schools - with Montgomery County Public Schools ignoring state law. In Maryland, if an item is curriculum related a school system cannot charge a fee.

We know from previous Post articles on MCPS school audits that cash at the local school is often used for non-student purposes. Even though the money goes into "student activity accounts", the money is used for teacher clothing, food, etc...The Post reported on a number of these audits in their story on Sept 20, 2007, Opening the Books on Accounting Oddities.

In MCPS the money collected in Curricular Fees does NOT flow back into the systems Operating Budget. So what is the money used for? Good question. The schools already receive textbooks and materials budgets. Why are the schools charging parents for items that have already been funded? And that should be the first question when any fundraiser is suggested. Far more important than the TYPE of fundraiser is WHERE the profits from that fundraiser will go. Who will be accountable for how the funds are used? Who will be exercising oversight over the funds? IF a Maryland principal claims a curriculum related need, then the local budget allocation should be public and parents should be advocating for funding. (Note MCPS has now removed local school budget funding information from their web site.)

As an example, what is a "locker fee" and why should anyone EVER pay that? The lockers were built into the school and no one is being billed for their existence. When the local school "charges" a fee for a locker there is no cost associated with that item, so what is the money really for?

Let's get to the bottom line on schools fundraising for themselves first, before debating the type of fundraiser: What is the money used for and who is overseeing its use?

Posted by: jzsartucci | October 3, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

"Pay up if you want your child to have workbooks, computer supplies, paintbrushes and gym suits. Does your child need a locker? A sports uniform? Or a parking space? Expect those to cost you."

No, don't EXPECT items relating to curriculum to cost you a thing in Maryland public schools. In Maryland these items do not cost parents anything. In Maryland, students are provided a free public education and all textbooks and materials of instruction are provided. And that is the way it is in the vast majority of Maryland public schools - with Montgomery County Public Schools ignoring state law. In Maryland, if an item is curriculum related a school system cannot charge a fee.

We know from previous Post articles on MCPS school audits that cash at the local school is often used for non-student purposes. Even though the money goes into "student activity accounts", the money is used for teacher clothing, food, etc...The Post reported on a number of these audits in their story on Sept 20, 2007, Opening the Books on Accounting Oddities.

In MCPS the money collected in Curricular Fees does NOT flow back into the systems Operating Budget. So what is the money used for? Good question. The schools already receive textbooks and materials budgets. Why are the schools charging parents for items that have already been funded? And that should be the first question when any fundraiser is suggested. Far more important than the TYPE of fundraiser is WHERE the profits from that fundraiser will go. Who will be accountable for how the funds are used? Who will be exercising oversight over the funds? IF a Maryland principal claims a curriculum related need, then the local budget allocation should be public and parents should be advocating for funding. (Note MCPS has now removed local school budget funding information from their web site.)

As an example, what is a "locker fee" and why should anyone EVER pay that? The lockers were built into the school and no one is being billed for their existence. When the local school "charges" a fee for a locker there is no cost associated with that item, so what is the money really for?

Let's get to the bottom line on schools fundraising for themselves first, before debating the type of fundraiser: What is the money used for and who is overseeing its use?

Posted by: jzsartucci | October 3, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

"Pay up if you want your child to have workbooks, computer supplies, paintbrushes and gym suits. Does your child need a locker? A sports uniform? Or a parking space? Expect those to cost you."

No, don't EXPECT items relating to curriculum to cost you a thing in Maryland public schools. In Maryland these items do not cost parents anything. In Maryland, students are provided a free public education and all textbooks and materials of instruction are provided. And that is the way it is in the vast majority of Maryland public schools - with Montgomery County Public Schools ignoring state law. In Maryland, if an item is curriculum related a school system cannot charge a fee.

We know from previous Post articles on MCPS school audits that cash at the local school is often used for non-student purposes. Even though the money goes into "student activity accounts", the money is used for teacher clothing, food, etc...The Post reported on a number of these audits in their story on Sept 20, 2007, Opening the Books on Accounting Oddities.

In MCPS the money collected in Curricular Fees does NOT flow back into the systems Operating Budget. So what is the money used for? Good question. The schools already receive textbooks and materials budgets. Why are the schools charging parents for items that have already been funded? And that should be the first question when any fundraiser is suggested. Far more important than the TYPE of fundraiser is WHERE the profits from that fundraiser will go. Who will be accountable for how the funds are used? Who will be exercising oversight over the funds? IF a Maryland principal claims a curriculum related need, then the local budget allocation should be public and parents should be advocating for funding. (Note MCPS has now removed local school budget funding information from their web site.)

As an example, what is a "locker fee" and why should anyone EVER pay that? The lockers were built into the school and no one is being billed for their existence. When the local school "charges" a fee for a locker there is no cost associated with that item, so what is the money really for?

Let's get to the bottom line on schools fundraising for themselves first, before debating the type of fundraiser: What is the money used for and who is overseeing its use?

Posted by: jzsartucci | October 3, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

In Maryland, students are provided a free public education and all textbooks and materials of instruction are provided.

NO IT IS NOT FREE. Someone, somewhere is paying something. NOTHING is 'free.' There is a cost to EVERYTHING. As in, to some people, the 'cost' of a 'free' education is SO HIGH that they pay extra to send their kid(s) to private school (no judgement, just the facts).

We pay so much to our school system, and the problem is, with most places, everyone screams: BUT IT'S FOR THE CHILDREN, and the systems typically get whatever they ask for. A neighbor was switching his child from private to public school, and I told him to expect just as many fundraisers- there's no difference on that front between private and public.

It's a shame, and growing up the only fundraisers we had were for specific things. Our PTA raises upwards of $100k per year for the school, so it's a huge amount of money and allows the kids to get so much more. Unfortunately, it's a part of life. Until you get unions out of education, you're never going to be able to have a handle on the budgets.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 3, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

We have an 8-lane highway that the school cheerleaders regularly use for car washes. They wear short shorts with the words 'cheer' plastered on their bottoms and pick up trash next to the road so it can be displays. I am horrified to think of the sick perverts cruising the roads to get a view. This is not a home-town football game, this is public. Protect the children.

Posted by: sharonp1z | October 6, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone pointed out what a racket this is for the "fund raising" companies that supply the useless junk that is shilled? The schools usually just get a small proportion of the profits. Sure, perhaps there is some competition for who provides the bigger margin, but essentially the outrage of public schools being inadequately funded has led to a huge money-making industry for these companies. PLEASE, if you want to help support a school, write a check for the amount you would have spent on the cookie dough - the school will get at least three times as much money that way.

And let's start thinking about redistribution of school funding. It seems pretty clear that a lot of money being spent on administrators and school boards should be getting to the classroom but isn't. So, honestly, what your third grader is raising money for is the superintendent's salary. If that's worth it to you, go right along with it.

Posted by: Bguhl | October 6, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I remember, WAY back in 4th or 5th grade, (about 44 years ago!) the sixth grade sold a form of candy that is Dutch in origin called babbelaars (sp?)that taste like horehound candy. By the end of the year, people were SO sick of it I think the rest finally just got tossed. The town I grew up was founded by Dutch immigrants in the mid-1800's. I don't remember how much $ was made, but I don't think it was much at all.

Posted by: Alex511 | October 6, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I haven't read through all the comments, but my child's school does these cookie dough sales as well. What bothers me is that unlike a traditional bake sales, these are pro-profit companies using our children to sell their products. My child did not participate in the fundraiser. My other child's school (she's in a private pre-k) asks parents to donate items which they make into themed gift baskets and then auction off. I like this approach. Everything is donated and then all the money goes to the school. On the other hand, I feel that in fundraisers where products are being sold, my child is being used for cheap labor. The school gets a cut, but in the end private companeis are profiting.

Posted by: newtoHouston | October 7, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I hate school fundraisers, and never sold a freakin' thing the whole time I was in school. Now that I'm not in school, I still hate fundrasiers.

That's why we pay taxes. Use the money wisely, or even raise taxes, to pay for things schools need. Maybe then, parents would feel an investment in public schools, there may be an improvement in services, and more and more kids will go to public schools instead of begging for vouchers for private schools.

Posted by: Mazarin | October 14, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

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