PTA Filling In Gaps For Schools

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, November 10, 2008

On a recent morning, parents, teachers and students filled the library at Del Dayo Elementary School in the Sacramento area.  It was the semi-annual book fair – a fund-raiser that keeps the book-shelves stocked.   Media Technician Paula Wakamiya (Wah-kuh-MEE-yuh) works 30 hours a week, running the library.

"The PTO contributes to my salary, my hours.”

Wakamiya says the school’s Parent Teacher Organization pays a big chunk of her salary; without that, her hours would be cut in half.

“I believe it would severely limit it and decimate our library program.”

Del Dayo’s PTO also pays for computer upgrades, school supplies – even copy machines and paper.  Tina Ramazini is President of the organization:

“The single largest area of our budget goes to salary positions. We fund a computer tech so that we can have a computer lab at this school that is not paid for through public funds.  We pay an additional reading aide in the lower grades.”

The PTO’s budget is more than 100-thousand dollars a year.  And Del Dayo isn’t alone.  A recent survey by the California State PTA found that 62 percent of local PTA’s said they’ve been asked to increase fund-raising due to tight budgets.  Carol Kocivar (KOH-sih-var) is with the statewide group:

“Local schools have to ask the parents to actually be like little piggy banks so that in bad times, they have to pay for things that schools should be providing.”

Many school officials argue the root of the problem is insufficient state funding.  But costs have also increased.  Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools Dave Gordon says everything from health care for teachers to bus fuel has gone up.  He says the increasing role of PTO’s widens the gap between wealthy and poor districts:

“Some schools will have pta’s and pto’s that have the wherewithal to fund teachers or librarians and positions, others won’t have a prayer of doing that because of the circumstances of the families.”

Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association says the problem isn’t how much money California is doling out to schools.  He notes they’re guaranteed roughly 40 percent of the state’s general fund.  He says the real issue is how that money is being spent – and he thinks too much is spent on administrative costs. He has advice for the parents who are shelling out extra money to the PTA:

"Ask the administration to open up the books to see where that money is going, and not only of that particular school, but of the school district in which they find themselves.”

Governor Schwarzenegger warned schools recently that they could see more cuts due to an eleven billion dollar drop in state revenues.  His latest budget calls for a two-and-a-half billion dollar cut to education.  PTA leaders worry that means schools will be leaning on them even more heavily in the future.