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Report: PTAs Raise Millions, Mostly for Affluent Schools

Kids who go to schools in wealthy neighborhoods benefit the most from private donations. (V. Carter)
Kids who go to schools in wealthy neighborhoods benefit the most from private donations. (V. Carter)
April 21, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A new report looks at how much money is being raised by Parent-Teacher Associations across the country, and reveals that schools in wealthy districts benefit the most. The Center for American Progress examined the top 50 PTAs in the nation, which raised $43 million in the 2013-2014 school year.

When there are no rules about how to distribute those donations, Scott Sargrad, the managing director of K-12 education policy at the center, says children at schools in poorer neighborhoods aren't getting much beyond what the state allocates them.

The researchers found once guidelines were in place to distribute the money fairly, parent donations didn't drop off.

"That says to us that it's likely that having this kind of a policy doesn't actually inhibit parent donation at all," he said. "Parents are still more than willing to give to their schools."

The report suggests districts take action to create guidelines that ensure PTA funds are distributed equitably. It says private donations to schools have increased over the years.

A study by Indiana University at Bloomington found PTAs raised $300 million more in 2010 than in 1995.

Catherine Brown, vice president for education policy at the center says the schools getting the lowest amount of private donations tend to be populated heavily with children of color, and research has shown that money invested in disadvantaged schools results in better education.

"How can we make those systems more equitable?" she asked. "How can we provide students who are poorer with all of the high-quality teachers? They come to school with greater needs, there's a vocabulary gap before they even get to kindergarten - so they really need even greater investments in order to achieve their full potential."

According to the report, this so-called "masked money" goes to schools to pay for field trips, art, music instruction, new computers, after-school programs, supplies, clubs and sports.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO