Monday, November 28, 2011

Private Donations For Public Schools

Most cities or towns have multiple public schools in their district.  So is it right for one public school to receive an influx of private donations while others don't get as much?

That is the question raised in a recent article in The Los Angeles Times.  The idea itself doesn't seem too controversial.  If a group of parents want their students to enjoy higher quality learning, why shouldn't they donate money so they can buy things like new computers?  The situation becomes fuzzier when you consider that there are schools in the same district that lack many of these same amenities.

The Times piece offers the case of the Santa Monica-Malibu United School District as the poster child for this discussion.  PTA donations add up to more than $2,100 per student at Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School in Malibu.  McKinley Elementary in Santa Monica, on the other hand, gets only an average $96 per student in donations.  Only 2% of the students at Point Dume are poor, and the school uses the money for, among other things, classroom aides, a reading program, and choral music.  About 46% of the student population at McKinley is considered poor.

The drastic difference in donations between the two schools has sparked a debate in the district, where the school board is considering some changes.  This includes creating a district-wide nonprofit that would collect donations for personnel and distribute them evenly amongst the schools.  Donations for supplies would stay with individual schools.  Under this system, half of the donations to Point Dume would be in the hands of the nonprofit.

Parents of children at wealthier schools argue that it's their money, and they should be able to do what they want with it.  But, as the article mentions, California courts have continuously ruled that there must be an equal distribution to all public schools. 

Read the full article in The Los Angeles Times, and chime in with your thoughts on the topic.  For additional reading, check out this article from NPT about public school foundations.

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