What Happens When Petulant Parents Won’t Share?

What Women Really Think
Nov. 10 2011 3:02 PM

What Happens When Petulant Parents Won’t Share? School Funding Inequities, That’s What.

California’s Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District set off a parent revolt this past month by taking steps to curtail parents from fundraising solely for their children’s school. If proposed new rules are adopted, future donations for all instructional activities will go through a central education foundation. The motivation? Fairness.

Funding inequities have long marked the American education experience. Because educational monies come (mostly) from local taxes, spending can vary wildly between adjacent school districts. But as schools increasingly turn to parents to cover budget cuts in economic hard times, chasms have opened within the districts themselves.

Advertisement

You can see the results in Santa Monica-Malibu Unified. To the outside world, the two Southern California beach communities are fabulously wealthy, fully populated by show-business stars and others of significant means. Then there is reality. Santa Monica, especially, is quite diverse, with significant low-income and Latino populations.

That diversity is reflected in the individual schools. One elementary school is so adept at getting its wealthy parents to open their checkbooks that it is able to spend an additional $2,000 per student on enrichment activities, which include employing multiple reading and instructional assistants, as well as classes in chorale music, marine science, and art. But at another Santa Monica-Malibu Unified school, located just a few miles away, a significant percentage of the kids come from economically disadvantaged homes and the local PTA can’t even muster up an additional $100 per child, leaving the students to make do with a truncated music program, a few art classes, and one measly instructional assistant.

Charity, however, begins at home if you are from affluent Malibu, where the anger over the proposed change is most intense. Many say that parents will simply stop donating their time and money if forced to share. One claimed parents were being “disenfranchised” to a local paper. Another told Malibu Patch, “Our families give to the schools and principals and teachers and programs they know and love and trust.”

Please. This entire contretemps reads like yet one more chapter in the more-than-occasional solipsism of many contemporary parents, who seem all too sensitive to the problems facing their own progeny and nowhere near sensitive enough to the issues of others.  They appear blissfully unaware that, along with additional arts instruction, they are imparting lessons to their children in everything from economic privilege to virtues of selfishness. To paraphrase George Orwell, all children are equal, but some children are more equal than others.

Santa Monica-Malibu is hardly the first district to look at these parent-generated funding inequities and declare them unacceptable. Portland, Ore., for example, has had a plan in place for more than a decade that requires school-based fundraising groups to donate one-third of the kitty to a separate fund dedicated to the needs of the city’s less affluent schools. Others—including the California communities of Manhattan Beach, Palo Alto, and Albany—have moved in recent years to the fundraising model Santa Monica-Malibu is considering. Last month, the Albany superintendent gave an interview about the changeover to the Sacramento Bee. “All we are talking about it providing equity for our students within the confines of the school day,” she explained.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Books
Sept. 23 2014 7:14 AM Fighting the Sophomore Slump, Five Novels at a Time Announcing the Slate/Whiting Second Novel List.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.