When I first saw my son’s school, I was disappointed to see an unexciting playground (and I still am), but refurbishing it is such a huge endeavor that is not within capacity of the school at this time. However, I am proud to say that the fundraising efforts of the parent council has made it possible to support the most immediate needs of the school beyond what the school budget can cover.
The Toronto Star recently published an article about the increasing fundraising gap between have- and have-not schools. The article cites public concerns of a two-tier education system, discusses ‘model school’ grants, and raises questions about what should be considered essential school assets such as libraries and playgrounds – and what should not.
When the Star article came out, it started a conversation on Talk 1010 radio about whether or not fundraising levels should be equalized in some fashion. Concerns were raised about giving money to your child’s school, only to have it go outside the ‘community’ and how to ensure that have-not school continue their fundraising efforts if they are given money from other schools.
What the hosts of Talk 1010 failed to realize when talking about communities in Toronto and local schools, is that there are a number of local schools in each community. The school my son attends is a five minute drive away from our home and there are about six other schools between our home and our school. So when talking about community giving and fundraising for schools, you can’t just talk about the most immediate school. This means that our community includes all these schools, and local businesses are approached by many of them to support events with cash or in-kind donations. Their generosity speaks volumes for the community spirit in our area.
The concept of the larger community is not lost on the local schools, students attend activities at other schools to share experiences. This is easy because the schools are within walking distance of each other.
The Star mentioned that some schools which raise significant funds do support other nearby schools in need. This is a great idea. But how do we address Talk 1010’s concerns about schools slacking off on their fundraising efforts if they know they’ll be getting money from another school? Match only what the school in need raises itself first. It doesn’t make it equal, but it supports all schools and children in the immediate community, and ensures that all schools do their part in fundraising.
They also raised the question of the capacity of parents in low income areas to contribute money and if they have access to work colleagues to buy raffle tickets or other fundraising items. These are valid points but there are other factors to consider as well: is there a culture of volunteering at the school and do they have the knowledge of how to run a fundraising event or campaign?
For my son’s school, we have been developing a culture of volunteerism which takes time. With the increased diversity of mixed income entering the school, the knowledge of running successful fundraising events and expanded reach is certainly helping on the fundraising front. We enjoy taking advantage of our diverse cultural, language, even our socio-economic backgrounds to ensure our community is truly reflected in our school and in our adventures together.