A look at million-dollar PTAs in NY’s “public private” schools

The New York Times has published a fascinating article about the perks some wealthier PTAs have provided to their schools, including hiring a fitness coach for recess and a chef–not to mention school trips to ridings schools and swimming lessons, as well as iPads aplenty. It opens up a discussion of equity, too, of course, but who is going to turn down money during tough timese? Interestingly, New York operates a Fund for Schools, which provides grants to financially needy schools. Every large city should have one.

The newspaper reports:

THOUGH some parents say that poorer schools receive Title I financing — federal dollars allocated to schools serving large percentages of low-income children — giving them a lift that wealthier schools do not get, others dismiss that argument. “Title I money is restrictive,” said Yolanda Smith, a senior education analyst in the city’s Independent Budget Office. “It is only supposed to be used for activities specifically related to student achievement. By contrast, PTA money can be used to buy almost anything.”

Dennis M. Walcott, New York City’s schools chancellor, said that he was well aware of “the disparity issue,” but he did not want to penalize parents for getting involved.

Instead, he has worked through the Fund for Public Schools, a nonprofit group designed, in part, to support low-income schools. The fund has provided over 250 library grants of up to $10,000 each and has helped 70 schools upgrade their art spaces with grants of up to $20,000 each.

Department officials say the city has also moved to curb inequities within the system through its budgeting process by instituting a “fair funding formula,” which was put in place, Ms. Miller, the department spokeswoman, said, to allow the city “to direct more resources to schools that need it the most.”

Schools with higher-needs children have received more dollars for each child, but because of budget cuts, the city has not been able to make use of the formula fully. The year it was instituted, the budget office reported that students identified as needy received an average of $217 more than what they would have received under the old system.

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