So I know people live all over and I’m curious how normal (or not) this sounds to others.
My 2 older kids go to public elementary. We live in a zone where about 35-40% of kids are on free/reduced lunch. Many people are also well off.
Over the past couple years our PTA keeps ramping up the “pay to play” things. We have a big auction (expensive just to get in the door) and lots of “sign n go” parties where you pay a ticket price (sometimes steep) for the kid or parent to do a special event.
This year they added an auction item to bid on teacher for a day, across every teacher and staff member. Today is the day it’s happening. So the kids being celebrated are the kids whose parents were able/willing to spend the most money (several hundred minimum). They had an assembly this morning that was supposed to be for good behavior and school spirit wins, but a friend who went said it was overshadowed by the kids clapping for all the teacher for a day “winners”.
The optics of all this have been increasingly gross to me. It’s one thing for parents to bid on a trip or case of wine (although still, the $ amounts are exclusionary) but this happened so visibly in front of the kids (and will all day as those kids get special treatment).
I don’t think it’s a bad lesson for my kids to learn we can’t spend on everything (I didn’t bid on anything this year) but I do think it’s unfortunate to glorify kids whose parents spent the most. I know money is how the world works but UGH.
Is this normal? Would this fly at your public school? Seriously curious!!
nectarine / 2000 posts
Our PTO holds an annual campaign drive in the fall every year. Their suggested donation is $20 per kid. Most families give that amount or more, but some families give less or nothing. This year they had rewards for each classroom if the overall goal was met - but it was for every single class in the school, not based on who donated.
They also sell school spirit wear to raise money. And have a couple of smaller fundraisers throughout the year - like asking for $7 per kid to cover a specific thing.
All of the events they hold are then free to attend. Most events will have free raffle prizes to enter. Some will have auction items to bid on. Our harvest fest had food vendors that you had to pay for but there was no entrance fee and all kid activities were free.
The adult only events hosted by PTO provide some food but typically have a cash bar and an option to but more food.
The PTO also covers all field trip expenses.
What you are describing would not fly in our school. And I would be really unhappy with an assembly like that.
persimmon / 1351 posts
So I am not sure how normal it is but I'm pretty involved in our PTA so I'll tell you how ours works. We have one paid event in the fall, it's a carnival and the kids pay but the price is pretty reasonable (I think $10 or $15 per elementary aged kid and that includes unlimited games, we get food trucks so that is additional). Other than that we have two book fairs/year that are fundraisers, a "penguin workshop" around the holidays, and also a "read a thon" where students can raise money per minute read if they CHOOSE to, they are still allowed to participate and are eligible for the same prizes, etc. There is no advantage to raising money and the most money raised doesn't get any kind of recognition. Oh and if you want to be an official member of the PTA you pay dues but if you want to join and aren't financially able the PTA will assist with that.
A part of the fall carnival is a silent teacher auction where the teachers auction off different things (teacher for a day, give the class the spelling test, decorate a teacher's door, etc). My husband totally balked at this because he thought it was very exclusionary. I will say though, the winners aren't announced in front of other students...some things went for $5 and some went for hundreds (insanity)...there are also a few "bigger ticket" items (principal for a day, ride to school in a fire truck) that every student gets raffle tickets for that are free so everyone can enter.
That auction aside, I do think our PTA does a good job of not nickel and dime-ing parents or doing anything really over the top. They don't do any kind of "buy this wrapping paper or weird candle" type of fundraiser either.
Oh and our district is mostly upper middle class. I am not sure the percentage of students on free/reduced lunches.
Regarding your PTA, I would be really put off by the winners of the teacher auction being announced at an assembly. I think that's really unnecessary and took the focus off of what it should have been about.
cantaloupe / 6085 posts
thanks for the replies! Those things sound more reasonable on the whole for sure.
Yeah the assembly was really gross. I mean it’s supposed to be an event where intentionally it’s about something all kids can strive for. It just feels like a huge miss for the admin to not think about the optics.
blogger / nectarine / 2043 posts
I'm the PTA treasurer for my daughter's school and ours is very similar demographically and what you're describing sounds gross to me as well. We actually don't do anything that requires people to pay for events, and instead do a couple fundraisers where people can donate as they wish so that we have general funds to support events and we hustle a lot to get as much as possible donated or underwritten by local businesses for those events. We have a membership fee ($10/person) to join the PTA, though our events are always open to everyone, regardless of membership, and we do a donation drive that's just open donations that typically generates around $5-10K, depending on the year, plus a book fair that brings in a few thousand dollars. We also did a Read-A-Thon last year that was very successful but all that money went to the library to buy new books. Our events include a fall festival, movie nights, afterschool programs (people pay the vendor to attend those), book fair (people pay for the books) and we've been thinking of adding a spring event but don't have one as yet. Kids/parents don't pay for access to any of that and we feel very very strongly that it should remain that way.
pomelo / 5256 posts
It wouldn't fly at my kid's school. We have kids from a mix of economic backgrounds in a HCOL area with modest homes (Bay Area).
At our school the PTA organization has a $20 suggested membership but they also state on the form how much is spent on the kids during the year - $400 I think). The big fundraiser is a walk a thon. The kids are rewarded on how far they walk, not donations raised. In the Fall they have a fall festival combined with costume parade. Entry to the festival and all the games are free. They only charge for food. In November they usually have a Winter Family Dance which is free to attend. At the dance they offer family photos which I think are free or very affordable (I've never gotten DH there so we haven't done that). The kids are very focused on the dance but there is also a silent auction. Each class cobbles together an auction prize. Honestly all the prizes end up too big (like the 'game night' winner wins 25+ board games) and far out of my financial league. That's probably our biggest area of improvement. I feel bad I contribute nothing but a potluck dish to a fundraiser that's also a fun night.
clementine / 912 posts
My son is in 1st grade so we are relatively new to the PTA thing, it is interesting to see the variety of responses.
There is a $6 fee to join our PTA but they also offer membership packages that include extras like school t-shirts and signs for an additional donation. The PTA funds a winter party for each classroom and teacher appreciation efforts throughout the school year as well as other small school improvement projects.
Most school events are free to attend but they did charge a small fee for a family movie night in the fall and are having a spring carnival that requires you to purchase a wrist band to participate in the games.
There is a separate school Foundation that raises money to fund the STEM program (primarily the teacher's salary). They do one big fundraiser which is a field day type event that all of the kids can participate in regardless of money raised. However, they do have a reward system and deliver prizes to students in the classroom based on donations collected. The prizes are small items (keychains, rubber bracelets) but I know the kids are paying attention to what their classmates receive.
pomegranate / 3387 posts
@bhbee: I agree with you that the optics of what you described sound not so great. I grew up pretty poor, and I was keenly aware of all the activities and fundraisers my parents were not participating in. Now that we can afford to participate more, I still make sure my kid has perspective. For example my husband and I will volunteer time rather than money where possible. I try to involve my kid in charitable fundraisers like the AHA or adopting families for Christmas. But otherwise, I'd resent feeling pressured to contribute large amounts of money or risk having my kids or other kids feeling excluded. Especially in our urban school district, I'm glad our PTA seems to be sensitive to the different means of different families.