Examining Education III

Registered my 7th and my 4th graders over the last few days at their respective schools. Both registration packages had over ten individual requests for financial contributions.

Daughter's elementary school wanted money for:
--Rainbow Room
--PTA Stars
--Class Contribution Fund
--Science Fund
--Technology Fund
--Health and Safety Fund
--Support Staff Fund
--Breakfast Book Club
--Learning Fund

Approximately $715.00 to send my daughter to public elementary school, before she even gets there, if I chose to give what each group wanted. Then there are the required school supplies, usually totaling close to $100. And then throughout the school year there are classroom contributions generally totally $40-60 each. And, of course, there are my rising property taxes, every year edging closer to almost $1,000 over our property tax bill with all the add-on parcel taxes ostensibly collected for our schools.

My son's middle-school had an equal number of requests for funding. His school supplies are even more expensive with parents having to provide computer set-ups, as his classes now require much of their homework to be done and delivered online.

While we can all appreciate the lack of federal and state funding support our education system used to receive, lack of funds is happening to most of us these days. The reality (and I suppose irony) is we have less money to work with when now more than ever we need to educate our kids to strive for excellence to compete in the global economy.

Unarguably, we must find money and support outside government funding, or taxing the homeowner into foreclosure. Since I must pay my property tax bill in its entirety, and I have no input how my 'contribution' is spent, it's getting harder for me to write checks to these groups at their schools still asking for more. I paid only three of the 12 groups requesting contributions. And I am not alone. Most mom's I saw at my son's registration were only paying for a few at best, though most all of us are passionate about a good education for our kids and realize these groups need money to survive.

So, let's get creative...

Fact: Getting money from people is much easier on the intimate level. Asking Aunt Sarah or Dad for a loan is usually easier, and cheaper than getting it from the bank, right? So, here's an idea illustrated in the story below for fund raising on the intimate scale:

...End of school year last June my 9 yr old daughter had her music concert in the school's new multipurpose auditorium. Before the concert started the music director announced the kids had to share the music stands because she didn't have enough, then requested a class donation of $12 per parent to pay for more music stands before leading the kids into singing. After the concert she reminded the parents again about the class donation. I was one among many who gave her the requested amount. I knew exactly where the money was going. I love music, think it's important to learn and am happy to support the program and its needs. But more importantly, my daughter was directly involved so I was more inclined to contribute.

Virtually every time a teacher, or class-parent asked for a contribution, I've given, as most all the other parents have. Classroom donations are generally specified for field trips or room supplies or teacher appreciation gifts, and if a parent or educator is consistent in asking with email reminders and personal inquiries...etc., funding requests are usually met.

Actionable Idea--
Request for Funding (or Supplies or Volunteers...etc.) Templates.


--Customizable templates for teachers (class-parents, program instructors, educators...etc.) to request a specific amount (supplies, equipment, time) from parents of students in their class to fulfill a specific need.
--Email enabled; auto-email to all class parents, with follow up reminders when needed.
--Payable online through secure network
--Accounting spreadsheets for figuring and filling in cost of total request per parent...etc.
--Search techniques and links for best price/value comparisons for typical classroom needs
--Estimate templates for vendors...etc., online fill-in available for automated comparisons
--Summary of parent request activity per classroom (at any time)
--Wish list templates (for special, non-essential requests...etc.)
--Additional customizable templates to request funding from school, district, state and federal levels, private business, non-profits...etc.
--Database of contact links for funding/supplies/scholarships...etc., broken down into different categorizes for easy access to proper contact and requirements of applications

These printable/email/blast templates, and the additional accounting software and directories are tools for teachers, schools, educators and administrators to get the funding/supplies/parent participation they may need—an actionable idea to help our schools help themselves.

I was advised not to publish this blog, told I was giving away a great idea, a product [not yet out there] worth money. But I encourage anyone to play with the template idea and see what they can come up with to assist their educators with the resources they need. These templates can be created on the school or district level by their respective IT departments or parent experts, giving every educator the opportunity to ask for and receive what they need for their classroom throughout the school year. Daunting proposition? Don't have any IT at your school or district? Contact me with your email and we'll help you create usable templates.

Rock and roll if you're looking to turn the templates into a business, with comprehensive directories updated consistently, even online support. Be a hell of a project to manage, could integrate analysis and feedback down the line. I'm hoping Corporate America becomes more proactive in providing our kids with tools for a stellar education that will help them rise to the top of the chain of demand in the world now competing for jobs.

Got an actionable idea to improve education locally, globally? Put it in motion. Contact your PTA, your kid's teacher/s, the school principal, the district director, the county supervisor. Lack of funding doesn't have to mean lack of money if we work with our educators in developing unique and creative solutions to obtaining additional funding.

Money, regardless of the amount, will not give our kids the edge they'll need to compete in the global market. As manufacturing jobs and repetitive task positions disappear with more and more automation (and cheaper labor overseas), creative thinking that generates usable products and services is, and will continue to be the prized commodity.

Teachers wearing black arm bands while opening car doors for kids being dropped off at school, and lining empty chairs taped with big red X's across the front of the campus doesn't work anymore on parents trying to make their mortgage, and taxes. Educators must now expand their area of expertise from not only teaching but include creative fund raising—soliciting financial or physical support for their classroom. Templates are but one tool, among infinite solutions limited only by the imagination and passion of the instructor, to create a public education system that teaches our kids to think, [wonder, imagine] and create.

The best way to teach is by example. We must model creativity to instill it.


Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful idea. To broaden the concept a bit more, why not establish the construct of a community, centered around a class? The will allow for exchanges between the teacher and parents, between parents, and possibly even extend this to exchanges between students. It would be interesting to keep all such exchanges public ... Also, you mentioned parental participation, what a great idea: micro-volunteering! "Parent needed for carpool", etc. Hope someone does this!!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the read happy I found this blog. The teacher community has a great responsibility with the youth of today. The bar should always be raised but today even higher we have entered with both feet a global economy