So…fundraising and the PTA…Can we talk?

Written by Vanessa Longacre-Wilcox, Advocacy Chair


Many of you have probably seen the story from KUOW about local Seattle PTAs and the disparities between fundraising in schools in our area.

The article talks about how some PTAs raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and some don’t have the ability to raise anything at all.  As an example, West Seattle Elementary (which is four miles from Alki) does not have a PTA and does not have the ability to fundraise in the same way Alki does.  On the other hand, Genesee Hill (which is 1.5 miles from Alki) has an annual budget of over $300,000.  Alki PTA has a budget of $192,000 this year. In the KUOW article, you can see the very wide range of PTA income throughout all of Seattle.

This raises many questions; things it would be great for us to wrestle with, talk about, and figure out what we think as a community (share your thoughts – survey link below). One thing is clear though, when it comes to funding for schools, it is hard to compare apples to apples in terms of resources.

Here are some basic problems with comparing resources in schools today:

  • Seattle Public Schools (SPS) are not fully funded by Washington State. Last year, the legislature added over a billion dollars to school funding state-wide but not only was it not enough, their new funding model actually reduced money to districts like Seattle because it restricted individual districts’ ability to raise money via levies.
  • Our district struggles with creating equitable outcomes for kids.SPS has a moral responsibility to focus on fixing that.  This means that funds need to be prioritized for schools with the highest level of need.  How many actual dollars and resources one school might need to provide the same level of support as another school might vary dramatically. With limited funds, that means that some high needs students are left behind if they are at schools that don’t meet the criteria for additional funding as a whole.
  • Families from schools with higher income populations tend to supplement school programs through PTA donations. In many cases, this widens the gap between access to programs and opportunities from school to school. However, PTAs providing funding for positions like school counselors and interventionists works to close gaps for students within an individual school.

Alki Elementary relies heavily on the funding provided by PTA to supplement what it gets from the district.  In December, Alki PTA will be asking for help to support these programs by hosting our annual auction. If we do not meet our fundraising goals, many important services and beloved programs are at risk.

Alki PTA’s annual budget is made up of different categories of expenses.  Some are essential services that if education was fully funded by the State Legislature, would be paid for by the school district.

For example, this year Alki Elementary was faced with a choice in how to use allocated funds.  Having only enough money to pay for either an academic interventionist (who has been at the school for over 20 years and serves kids who are struggling or need additional challenge academically) or our part-time counselor (who has been at the school for multiple years and provides individual, classroom, and school-wide support.)  A choice between our students’ academic success and their emotional well-being, is not a choice, it is a lose/lose situation.  Our students clearly need both and Alki PTA voted last year to pay for the school counselor position to the tune of over $55,000.

Some of what Alki PTA pays for are enrichment opportunities, and many other items paid for fall somewhere between essential (i.e. emergency preparedness supplies), mundane (i.e. photocopies) and enrichment (i.e. Writers in the Schools.)  Let’s a closer look at what else Alki PTA pays for:

School Operations and Educational Programs Funds  – 72% of Annual Budget

Part-time School Counselor, Office/Health/Tutoring/Playground Hourly Staff Support, Emergency Preparedness Supplies, English Language Arts Materials, Field Trip Scholarships, Safety Patrol, Flash Night (Health night), PE Equipment, Writers In the Schools (WITS), Alki Adventures, Camp Burton, Roots of Empathy, National Spelling Bee, IXL Math License, Global Reading Challenge,  and more…

Self-Sustaining ProgramsFully Funded by their Revenue – 19% of annual budget

Alki-A-Thon, Fall Auction, Running Club, Box Tops, Scholastic Book Fair, Spirit wear, Yearbook, Sporting Events, Winter Musical

PTA Operations –General Business & Non-profit Expenses – 5% of annual budget

Postage & Mailbox, Printing & Copying, Banking Fees, Insurance Premium, PTA Meeting Beverages/Snacks, PTA Events 1st Aid Kit, PTA Training/Convention, PTA Contingency Fund

PTA Student Events/Enrichment & Community Building Events  – 4% of annual budget

Kindergarten Social, Back to School BBQ/Events, First Day Receptions, Fall and Spring Parent Breakfasts, Skate night, Staff Holiday Luncheon, Bike To School Rodeo, Multi-Cultural Night, Razzle Dazzle Carnival/BBQ, Reflections National Arts Program, Birthday Calendar, Staff Appreciation Week, Movie License Fee, Volunteer Recognition, Legislative Advocacy

As we as a city and a school wrestle with these issues, we want to hear from you, what do you think about PTAs supplementing the district through fundraising?  Let us know your thoughts in this anonymous survey:

TAKE THE SURVEY (3 Questions)