I’m a card-carrying member of three parent school associations. I write the weekly newsletter for the special-education parents’ group and help organize social events for disabled kids. But my involvement is minimal compared to the extraordinary efforts by others who raise money for schools in our town. With fundraising skills honed by former careers in business and law, these parents tap into the deep pockets of residents to collect large sums of money, which purchase items as small as a doormat in front of the school for muddy boots to costly gifts, like Chromebooks for every child. These groups also assist those in the community who are less affluent, providing college scholarships and helping create social connections for marginalized families with special-needs children.
But is all this work from parent-school groups—work that is done with the best of intentions—unfairly increasing advantages in already privileged communities? Are my volunteer activities magnifying the differences between rich and poor school districts? Education policy experts disagree about the impact of these groups in schools.
Parents often raise money for their schools through local affiliates of the national Parent Teacher Association or, more commonly, independent parent-teacher organizations. Booster clubs support specific activities at local schools, such as sports teams, raising money for football gear, cultural field trips, and the like. Some towns also establish nonprofit, parent-run foundations, that assist public schools but operate independently from the district. Corporations and individuals receive tax benefits for their donations to these groups.